[par-uh k-siz-uh m]


any sudden, violent outburst; a fit of violent action or emotion: paroxysms of rage.
Pathology. a severe attack or a sudden increase in intensity of a disease, usually recurring periodically.

Origin of paroxysm

1570–80; earlier paroxismos < Greek paroxysmós irritation, derivative of paroxýnein to irritate. See par-, oxy-1, -ism
Related formspar·ox·ys·mal, par·ox·ys·mic, adjectivepar·ox·ys·mal·ly, adverbhy·per·par·ox·ysm, nounpost·par·ox·ys·mal, adjectivepre·par·ox·ys·mal, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for paroxysmal

Historical Examples of paroxysmal

  • It was a strange, paroxysmal kind of life that belonged to her.

    Elsie Venner

    Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

  • At first the pain is paroxysmal, with long intervals of ease.

  • We stood still until the paroxysmal rending in my head ceased.


    Mary Hartwell Catherwood

  • It would be necessary to balance protracted periods of inaction against the occasional outburst of paroxysmal explosions.

  • Paroxysmal convulsions are usually followed, in both cases, by long periods of tranquillity.

British Dictionary definitions for paroxysmal



an uncontrollable outbursta paroxysm of giggling
  1. a sudden attack or recurrence of a disease
  2. any fit or convulsion
Derived Formsparoxysmal or paroxysmic, adjectiveparoxysmally, adverb

Word Origin for paroxysm

C17: via French from Medieval Latin paroxysmus annoyance, from Greek paroxusmos, from paroxunein to goad, from para- 1 (intensifier) + oxunein to sharpen, from oxus sharp
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 paroxysmal



"sudden attack, convulsion," early 15c., from Middle French paroxysme (16c.), earlier paroxime (13c.), from Medieval Latin paroxysmus "irritation, fit of a disease," from Greek paroxysmos "irritation, exasperation," from paroxynein "to irritate, goad, provoke," from para- "beyond" (see para- (1)) + oxynein "sharpen, goad," from oxys "sharp, pointed" (see acrid). Non-medical sense first attested c.1600. Related: Paroxysmal.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

paroxysmal in Medicine




A sharp spasm or fit; a convulsion.
A sudden onset of a symptom or disease, especially one with recurrent manifestations, such as the chills and fever of malaria.
Related formspar′ox•ysmal (-ək-sĭzməl) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.