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[nahyt-mair] /ˈnaɪtˌmɛər/
a terrifying dream in which the dreamer experiences feelings of helplessness, extreme anxiety, sorrow, etc.
a condition, thought, or experience suggestive of a nightmare:
the nightmare of his years in prison.
(formerly) a monster or evil spirit believed to oppress persons during sleep.
1250-1300; Middle English; see night, mare2
1. phantasmagoria. See dream. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for nightmares
  • They had fewer nightmares and flashbacks in their daily lives long after the effects of the drug had worn off.
  • We all have nightmares in which no one ever asks a question, though usually someone finally does.
  • Daytime realities are almost never as bad as nightmares.
  • It amputates limbs, reconstructs faces, and brings nightmares that recede with time but never really go away.
  • nightmares may fuel anxiety rather than serving as an emotional release.
  • It is not a mythical creature or someones nightmares coming to life.
  • Being educated beyond your intelligence can cause strange nightmares.
  • The sleeper parched of his dreams, or purged of his nightmares, goes swiftly bonkers: without fantasy there is no reality.
  • The memory of ducking under the kick still gives him nightmares, he says.
  • These episodes can range from nightmares to mental reenactments of my injury to inexplicable waves of emotion.
British Dictionary definitions for nightmares


a terrifying or deeply distressing dream
  1. an event or condition resembling a terrifying dream: the nightmare of shipwreck
  2. (as modifier): a nightmare drive
a thing that is feared
(formerly) an evil spirit supposed to harass or suffocate sleeping people
Derived Forms
nightmarish, adjective
nightmarishly, adverb
nightmarishness, noun
Word Origin
C13 (meaning: incubus; C16: bad dream): from night + Old English mare, mære evil spirit, from Germanic; compare Old Norse mara incubus, Polish zmora, French cauchemar nightmare
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
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Word Origin and History for nightmares



late 13c., "an evil female spirit afflicting sleepers with a feeling of suffocation," compounded from night + mare (3) "goblin that causes nightmares, incubus." Meaning shifted mid-16c. from the incubus to the suffocating sensation it causes. Sense of "any bad dream" first recorded 1829; that of "very distressing experience" is from 1831. Cognate with Middle Dutch nachtmare, German Nachtmahr.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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nightmares in Medicine

nightmare night·mare (nīt'mâr')

  1. A dream arousing feelings of intense fear, horror, and distress.

  2. An event or experience that is intensely distressing.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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