noun, plural pa·ral·y·ses [puh-ral-uh-seez] /pəˈræl əˌsiz/.

  1. a loss or impairment of voluntary movement in a body part, caused by injury or disease of the nerves, brain, or spinal cord.
  2. a disease characterized by this, especially palsy.
a state of helpless stoppage, inactivity, or inability to act: The strike caused a paralysis of all shipping.

Nearby words

  1. paralympian,
  2. paralympic,
  3. paralympic games,
  4. paralympics,
  5. paralyse,
  6. paralysis agitans,
  7. paralytic,
  8. paralytic abasia,
  9. paralytic dementia,
  10. paralytic ileus

Origin of paralysis

before 1150; < Latin < Greek parálysis, equivalent to paraly-, var stem of paralȳ́ein to loosen (i.e., disable) on one side (para- para-1 + lȳ́ein to loosen) + -sis -sis; replacing Middle English paralisi(e) < Old French < Latin, as above; replacing late Old English paralisin (accusative) < Latin, as above; cf. palsy1

Related formsnon·pa·ral·y·sis, noun, plural non·pa·ral·y·ses.sem·i·pa·ral·y·sis, noun, plural sem·i·pa·ral·y·ses. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for paralysis

British Dictionary definitions for paralysis


noun plural -ses (-ˌsiːz)

  1. impairment or loss of voluntary muscle function or of sensation (sensory paralysis) in a part or area of the body, usually caused by a lesion or disorder of the muscles or the nerves supplying them
  2. a disease characterized by such impairment or loss; palsy
cessation or impairment of activityparalysis of industry by strikes

Word Origin for paralysis

C16: via Latin from Greek paralusis; see para- 1, -lysis

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 paralysis



1520s, from Latin paralysis, from Greek paralysis "paralysis, palsy," literally "loosening," from paralyein "disable, enfeeble," from para- "beside" (see para- (1)) + lyein "loosen, untie" (see lose).

Figurative use from 1813. Earlier form was paralysie (late 14c., see palsy). Old English equivalent was lyft adl (see left (adj.)) or crypelnes "crippleness."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for paralysis



n. pl. pa•ral•y•ses (-sēz′)

Loss of power of voluntary movement in a muscle through injury or through disease of its nerve supply.
Loss of sensation over a region of the body.

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

Science definitions for paralysis



Loss or impairment of voluntary movement or sensation in a part of the body, usually as a result of neurologic injury or disease.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Culture definitions for paralysis



The loss of voluntary movement in a body part. Paralysis results from damage to the nerves that supply the affected part of the body.

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.