hysterical

[ hi-ster-i-kuhl ]
/ hɪˈstɛr ɪ kəl /

adjective

of, relating to, or characterized by hysteria.
uncontrollably emotional.
irrational from fear, emotion, or an emotional shock.
causing hysteria.
suffering from or subject to hysteria.
causing unrestrained laughter; very funny: Oh, that joke is hysterical!

VIDEO FOR HYSTERICAL

WATCH NOW: What Is The Difference Between "Hysterical" And "Hilarious"?

The other day, I heard "hysterical" used as an insult ... how does this funny word also act as an insult, particularly to women?

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Origin of hysterical

1605–15; <Latin hysteric(us) hysteric + -al1

OTHER WORDS FROM hysterical

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH hysterical

historic, historical, hysterical
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

ABOUT THIS WORD

More context on hysterical

In everyday usage, hysterical means “uncontrollably emotional.”

But guess who usually gets marked with that label? Women. What’s more, hysterical comes from the Greek word for “womb.” It was once thought that hysteria was a condition that only affected women—and was caused by disturbances in the uterus.

Given the sexism associated with this word, hysterical isn’t exactly a laughing matter.

If knowing the history of hysterical has got you reflecting on your word choices, this slideshow, “These Common Words Have Offensive Histories,” discusses many other words whose place in your vocab you may want to reconsider. 

Keep in mind …

Due to the history of hysterical, you may want to consider some less sensitive synonyms, such as frantic, frenzied, impassioned, or vehement.

Informally, hysterical is also often used to refer to something “extremely funny.” Here are some other synonyms you can try:

Looking for more synonyms for funny? We’ve got loads more at Thesaurus.com.

Example sentences from the Web for hysterical

British Dictionary definitions for hysterical

hysterical

hysteric

/ (hɪˈstɛrɪkəl) /

adjective

of or suggesting hysteriahysterical cries
suffering from hysteria
informal wildly funny

Derived forms of hysterical

hysterically, adverb
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