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[spaz-uh m] /ˈspæz əm/
Pathology. a sudden, abnormal, involuntary muscular contraction, consisting of a continued muscular contraction (tonic spasm) or of a series of alternating muscular contractions and relaxations (clonic spasm)
any sudden, brief spell of great energy, activity, feeling, etc.
Origin of spasm
1350-1400; Middle English spasme < Latin spasmus < Greek spasmós convulsion, derivative of spân to draw a sword or cord, wrench (off), convulse
2. fit, storm, flash, spurt. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for spasm
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Ma nearly had a spasm, but she liked the looks of things when we had finished.

  • The spasm of fear which crosses my heart summons it to my aid.

  • The eyes glowed with the fires of a man's heart in a spasm of hate.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • After a time the spasm relaxed, but her condition remained alarming.

    K Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • The spasm loosed beads of perspiration which stood cold on his forehead.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • A spasm of pain contracted his features and drew beads of moisture to his forehead.

    Chip, of the Flying U B. M. Bower
  • A spasm of jealousy seized her heart—she withdrew her arm from Frederick's.

British Dictionary definitions for spasm


an involuntary muscular contraction, esp one resulting in cramp or convulsion
a sudden burst of activity, emotion, etc
Word Origin
C14: from Latin spasmus, from Greek spasmos a cramp, from span to tear
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 spasm

c.1400, from Old French spasme, from Latin spasmus "a spasm," from Greek spasmos "a spasm, convulsion," from span "draw up, tear away, contract violently, pull," from PIE *spe- "stretch." Figurative sense of "a sudden convulsion" (of emotion, politics, etc.) is attested from 1817.


1900, from spasm (n.). Related: Spasmed; spasming.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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spasm in Medicine

spasm (spāz'əm)

  1. A sudden involuntary contraction of a muscle or group of muscles.

  2. A muscle spasm.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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