[hi-ster-ee-uh, -steer-]


an uncontrollable outburst of emotion or fear, often characterized by irrationality, laughter, weeping, etc.
Psychoanalysis. a psychoneurotic disorder characterized by violent emotional outbreaks, disturbances of sensory and motor functions, and various abnormal effects due to autosuggestion.
Psychiatry. conversion disorder.

Compare mass hysteria.

Origin of hysteria

First recorded in 1795–1805; hyster(ic) + -ia
Related formssub·hys·te·ri·a, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for hysteria

Contemporary Examples of hysteria

Historical Examples of hysteria

  • By evening Mrs. Page had worked herself into a state bordering on hysteria.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • And she ran off, sobbing, into the little guignol, where she had an attack of hysteria.

    My Double Life

    Sarah Bernhardt

  • It is often also due to hysteria and consequently pathological.

  • Mrs. Wilcox had been overtired by the shopping, and was inclined to hysteria.

    Howards End

    E. M. Forster

  • In short, you think what I saw was merely the result of woman's hysteria?

    A Son of Hagar

    Sir Hall Caine

British Dictionary definitions for hysteria



a mental disorder characterized by emotional outbursts, susceptibility to autosuggestion, and, often, symptoms such as paralysis that mimic the effects of physical disordersSee also conversion disorder
any frenzied emotional state, esp of laughter or crying

Word Origin for hysteria

C19: from New Latin, from Latin hystericus hysteric
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 hysteria

1801, coined in medical Latin as an abstract noun from hysteric (see hysterical).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

hysteria in Medicine


[hĭ-stĕrē-ə, -stîr-]


A psychiatric disorder characterized by the presentation of a physical ailment without an organic cause.
Excessive or uncontrollable emotion, such as fear.
Related formshys•teric (hĭ-stĕrĭk) null adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

hysteria in Culture


A complex neurosis in which psychological conflict is turned into physical symptoms, such as amnesia, blindness, and paralysis, that have no underlying physical cause. Early in his career, Sigmund Freud worked on hysteria.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.