Definitions

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

  • n. A form of epilepsy, occurring most often in adolescents and children, characterized by frequent but transient lapses of consciousness and only rare spasms or falling.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A form of epilepsy where the seizures are characterized as minor, the person becomes vacant or unaware, but not involving spasms and unconsciousness. These seizures are usually brief, lasting up to 30 seconds, and may include twitching. A formal medical term would be absence seizures.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • The mildest form of epilepsy, with momentary faintness or unconsciousness, but without convulsions; -- opposed to grand mal.

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

  • n. a seizure of short duration characterized by momentary unconsciousness and local muscle spasms or twitching
  • n. epilepsy characterized by paroxysmal attacks of brief clouding of consciousness (and possibly other abnormalities)

Etymologies

French : petit, small + mal, illness.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From French for little illness. (Wiktionary)

Examples

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