[ kuhn-vuhls ]
See synonyms for: convulseconvulsed on

verb (used with object),con·vulsed, con·vuls·ing.
  1. to shake violently; agitate.

  2. to cause to shake violently with laughter, anger, pain, etc.

  1. to cause to suffer violent, spasmodic contractions of the muscles.

Origin of convulse

First recorded in 1635–45; from Latin convulsus, past participle of convellere “to shatter, tear loose,” equivalent to con- intensive prefix + vul- (variant stem of vellere “to pull, tear”) + -sus, variant of -tus past participle suffix; see con-

Other words from convulse

  • con·vuls·ed·ly, adverb
  • con·vuls·i·ble, adjective
  • con·vuls·i·bil·i·ty, noun
  • un·con·vulsed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use convulse in a sentence

  • But the country has historically avoided the periodic upheavals that have convulsed regional states like Iraq and Syria.

    Egypt, a Nation Divided | Barak Barfi | July 23, 2013 | THE DAILY BEAST
  • Still, Louis did not reply; but proofs of his contending soul convulsed the features his agitated hand tried to conceal.

  • One child between three and four was convulsed at the sight of his baby bib fastened round the neck of his bearded sire.

    Children's Ways | James Sully
  • He leapt to his feet, his face convulsed as if at the horror of learning of a hitherto undreamt-of state of things.

    St. Martin's Summer | Rafael Sabatini
  • These remarks were uttered with such vehemence, that not a word was lost, and the whole coach became convulsed with laughter.

  • The boys were convulsed with laughter; but the girls were afraid that the Irishman had been seriously hurt.

British Dictionary definitions for convulse


/ (kənˈvʌls) /

  1. (tr) to shake or agitate violently

  2. (tr) to cause (muscles) to undergo violent spasms or contractions

  1. (intr often foll by with) informal to shake or be overcome (with violent emotion, esp laughter)

  2. (tr) to disrupt the normal running of (a country, etc): student riots have convulsed India

Origin of convulse

C17: from Latin convulsus, from convellere to tear up, from vellere to pluck, pull

Derived forms of convulse

  • convulsive, adjective
  • convulsively, adverb
  • convulsiveness, noun

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