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[par-uh k-siz-uh m] /ˈpær əkˌsɪz əm/
any sudden, violent outburst; a fit of violent action or emotion:
paroxysms of rage.
Pathology. a severe attack or a sudden increase in intensity of a disease, usually recurring periodically.
Origin of paroxysm
1570-80; earlier paroxismos < Greek paroxysmós irritation, derivative of paroxýnein to irritate. See par-, oxy-1, -ism
Related forms
paroxysmal, paroxysmic, adjective
paroxysmally, adverb
hyperparoxysm, noun
postparoxysmal, adjective
preparoxysmal, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for paroxysm
Historical Examples
  • The crowd, delirious, cries and sobs in a paroxysm of despair.

  • After a while the paroxysm of drunkenness is completely formed.

    Select Temperance Tracts American Tract Society
  • He did not recognise me for some time, but as soon as he did, he fell into a paroxysm half hysterical, half frantic.

    The Felon's Track Michael Doheny
  • If this paroxysm of sorrow was to assail him again that night, there was but one place for him to be.

    The Octopus Frank Norris
  • Before I had well reached the top of the passage and felt for the match-box on the slab, I was in a paroxysm of horror.

    Johnny Ludlow, Fifth Series Mrs. Henry Wood
  • The deep-seated travail of his grief abruptly reached the paroxysm.

    The Octopus Frank Norris
  • He was fairly beside himself in a paroxysm of rage and struck at the air with his clenched fist.

    The Last Shot Frederick Palmer
  • Sits down, breaks into a paroxysm of laughter, wild and continued.

    Modern Icelandic Plays Jhann Sigurjnsson
  • The paroxysm was as short as it was violent, and her features again returned to their usual placidity of majestic beauty.

    Rattlin the Reefer Edward Howard
  • She looked up timidly; the paroxysm had passed, but her lashes yet glittered.

British Dictionary definitions for paroxysm


an uncontrollable outburst: a paroxysm of giggling
  1. a sudden attack or recurrence of a disease
  2. any fit or convulsion
Derived Forms
paroxysmal, paroxysmic, adjective
paroxysmally, adverb
Word Origin
C17: via French from Medieval Latin paroxysmus annoyance, from Greek paroxusmos, from paroxunein to goad, from para-1 (intensifier) + oxunein to sharpen, from oxus sharp
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for paroxysm

"sudden attack, convulsion," early 15c., from Middle French paroxysme (16c.), earlier paroxime (13c.), from Medieval Latin paroxysmus "irritation, fit of a disease," from Greek paroxysmos "irritation, exasperation," from paroxynein "to irritate, goad, provoke," from para- "beyond" (see para- (1)) + oxynein "sharpen, goad," from oxys "sharp, pointed" (see acrid). Non-medical sense first attested c.1600. Related: Paroxysmal.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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paroxysm in Medicine

paroxysm par·ox·ysm (pār'ək-sĭz'əm)

  1. A sharp spasm or fit; a convulsion.

  2. A sudden onset of a symptom or disease, especially one with recurrent manifestations, such as the chills and fever of malaria.

par'ox·ys'mal (-ək-sĭz'məl) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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