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From French paroxysme, from Medieval Latin paroxysmus (severe illness, fit of agony, paroxysm), from Ancient Greek παροξυσμός (paroxusmós, irritation, the severe fit of a disease).

Possibly from para- +‎ oxy- +‎ -ism.


  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈpæ.ɹək.ˌsɪ.zəm/
  • (file)


paroxysm (plural paroxysms)

  1. A random or sudden outburst (of activity).
    • 1831, Letitia Elizabeth Landon, Romance and Reality, volume 3, page 70:
      If prevented by force, the screams she sometimes uttered in her paroxysms of rage were fearful, and must inevitably be heard.
    • 1903 July, Jack London, “The Sounding of the Call”, in The Call of the Wild, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., OCLC 28228581, page 212:
      Unable to turn his back on the fanged danger and go on, the bull would be driven into paroxysms of rage.
    • 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter XXIII, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, OCLC 4293071:
      The slightest effort made the patient cough. He would stand leaning on a stick and holding a hand to his side, and when the paroxysm had passed it left him shaking.
    • 1955, Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (Crest Giant; D338), Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett Publications, published December 1959, OCLC 768447:
      There, on the soft sand, a few feet away from our elders, we would sprawl all morning, in a petrified paroxysm of desire, and take advantage of every blessed quirk in space and time to touch each other []
    • 1983, John Fowles, Mantissa
      Indeed in his excitement at this breakthrough he inadvertently dug his nails into the nurse's bottom, a gesture she misinterpreted, so that he had to suffer a paroxysm of breasts and loins in response.
  2. An explosive event during a volcanic eruption.
  3. A sudden recurrence of a disease, such as a seizure or a coughing fit.

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