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From hysteric +‎ -al, from Latin hystericus, from Ancient Greek ὑστερικός (husterikós, suffering in the womb, hysterical), from ὑστερά (husterá, womb).



hysterical (comparative more hysterical, superlative most hysterical)

  1. Of, or arising from hysteria.
    • 1848, William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, Chapter 16:
      An event of this nature, a marriage, or a refusal, or a proposal, thrills through a whole household of women, and sets all their hysterical sympathies at work.
  2. Having, or prone to having hysterics.
  3. Provoking uncontrollable laughter.
    • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, chapter 2, in The Mirror and the Lamp[1]:
      She was a fat, round little woman, richly apparelled in velvet and lace, […]; and the way she laughed, cackling like a hen, the way she talked to the waiters and the maid, […]—all these unexpected phenomena impelled one to hysterical mirth, and made one class her with such immortally ludicrous types as Ally Sloper, the Widow Twankey, or Miss Moucher.
    • 2016 February 6, James Zogby, “Israel’s prickliness blocks the long quest for peace”, in The National[2]:
      There is a certain irony in all of this because in their hysterical use of charge of “double standard” – that Israel is being “singled out for criticism”– it is Israel’s supporters who are themselves guilty of a “double standard”, since, if they were to have their way, it is Israel that would be singled out as the only country that cannot be criticised.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Like many terms that start with a non-silent h but have emphasis on their second syllable, some people precede hysterical with an, others with a.

Related terms[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • hysterical in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911.
  • hysterical at OneLook Dictionary Search