Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Behavior exhibiting excessive or uncontrollable emotion, such as fear or panic.
  • n. A mental disorder characterized by emotional excitability and sometimes by amnesia or a physical deficit, such as paralysis, or a sensory deficit, without an organic cause.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Behavior exhibiting excessive or uncontrollable emotion, such as fear or panic.
  • n. A mental disorder characterized by emotional excitability etc. without an organic cause.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A nervous affection, occurring almost exclusively in women, in which the emotional and reflex excitability is exaggerated, and the will power correspondingly diminished, so that the patient loses control over the emotions, becomes the victim of imaginary sensations, and often falls into paroxism or fits.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A nervous disease involving no recognizable anatomical lesion, characterized by unrestrained desire to attract. attention and sympathy, more or less coordinated convulsions, globus and clavus hystericus, anæsthesia, hyperæsthesia, motor paralysis, vasomotor derangements, etc. Women are much more frequently affected in this way than men. Also called hysterics.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. excessive or uncontrollable fear
  • n. neurotic disorder characterized by violent emotional outbreaks and disturbances of sensory and motor functions
  • n. state of violent mental agitation

Etymologies

New Latin : hyster(ic) + -ia1.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From New Latin hysteria, from hysteric, from Latin hystericus, from Ancient Greek ὑστερικός (hysterikos, "suffering in the uterus, hysterical"), from ὑστέρα (hustera, "womb"). Confer French hystérie. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • His theories took hold in American psychiatry, and the term hysteria came to mean “emotionally charged situations … symbolic of underlying conflicts.”

    The Chemistry of Calm

  • Hippocrates, the “father of medicine” whose healing oath is revered to this day, used the term hysteria to describe overwhelming fear, sometimes accompanied by unexplained physical symptoms or loss of self-control.

    The Chemistry of Calm

  • The word hysteria comes from the Greek word for uterus.

    The Pawprints of History

  • The term "hysteria" comes from the Greek word for "womb" and refers to a disease that was once diagnosed almost exclusively in women.

    Jezebel

  • "The term hysteria was coined by Hippocrates, who thought that suffocation and madness arose in women whose uteri had become too light and dry from lack of sexual intercourse and, as a result, wandered upward, compressing the heart, lungs, and diaphragm."

    Kiwiblog

  • The apogee of this hysteria is attained with a sign right where the speed bump is located: it shouts tope! accompanied by an arrow belatedly directing the eye downward, at the axle-thumper presumably.

    Free riding the roads of Mexico

  • William James had this tautology in mind when, remarking on another disease that doctors no longer believe to exist, he wrote, “The name hysteria, it must be remembered, is not an explanation of anything, but merely the title of a new set of problems.”

    MANUFACTURING DEPRESSION

  • COSTELLO: ACORN is trying to quiet what it calls hysteria, coming from conservative circles.

    CNN Transcript Oct 31, 2008

  • When she suffers fainting spells, her superiors criticize what they call her hysteria and give her a whip for self-flagellation.

    She was a teenage nun.

  • I recognize also, having those memories of the McCarthy period, that while this hysteria is actually one of the most odious things about the recurrent pattern of American politics it serves a psychological purpose.

    The World of 1975

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  • T.L.S.: 'Hysteria is a rum sort of subject these days. It has officially disappeared as a disease, wiped out of existence in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, the bible of contemporary psychiatry, and hysterics themselves seem to have vanished from psychiatrists’ and neurologists’ waiting rooms. Lay people still use the term with abandon, generally with reference to women who make a spectacle of their extreme emotional lability. But an illness that has a history dating all the way back to the time of Hippocrates is no longer respectable or recognized in medical circles. In the words of one of its best-known modern historians, Etienne Trillat, “L’hystérie est morte, c’est entendu�?. '

    January 22, 2009

  • "It's bugging me, grating me
    And twisting me around
    Yeah I'm endlessly caving in
    And turning inside out"

    January 9, 2007