[ kat-uh-plek-see ]
/ ˈkæt əˌplɛk si /


Pathology. a condition characterized by sudden, brief attacks of muscle weakness sometimes causing the body to fall helplessly, that is usually triggered by strong emotion: often associated with narcolepsy.

Nearby words

  1. cataphyll,
  2. cataplane,
  3. cataplasia,
  4. cataplasm,
  5. cataplectic,
  6. catapult,
  7. cataract,
  8. cataractogenic,
  9. catarrh,
  10. catarrhal fever

Origin of cataplexy

1880–85; < German Kataplexie < Greek katáplēxis (with suffix probably by analogy with Apoplexie apoplexy) fixation (of the eyes), equivalent to kataplēk- (variant stem of kataplḗssein to strike down) + -sis -sis

Related formscat·a·plec·tic [kat-uh-plek-tik] /ˌkæt əˈplɛk tɪk/, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for cataplectic


/ (ˈkætəˌplɛksɪ) /


sudden temporary paralysis, brought on by severe shock
a state of complete absence of movement assumed by animals while shamming death
Derived Formscataplectic, adjective

Word Origin for cataplexy

C19: from Greek kataplēxis amazement, from kataplēssein to strike down (with amazement), confound, from kata- down + plēssein to strike

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

Word Origin and History for cataplectic



"the state of an animal when it is feigning death," 1883, from German kataplexie, from Greek kataplexis "stupefaction, amazement, consternation," from kataplessein "to strike down" (with fear, etc.), from kata- "down" (see cata-) + plessein "to strike, hit," from PIE *plak- (2) "to strike" (see plague (n.)). Related: Cataplectic.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for cataplectic


[ kătə-plĕk′sē ]


A sudden loss of muscle tone and strength, usually caused by an intense emotional stimulus.
Related formscat′a•plectic (-plĕktĭk) adj.

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