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[spaz-uh m] /ˈspæz əm/
Pathology. a sudden, abnormal, involuntary muscular contraction, consisting of a continued muscular contraction (tonic spasm) or of a series of alternating muscular contractions and relaxations (clonic spasm)
any sudden, brief spell of great energy, activity, feeling, etc.
Origin of spasm
1350-1400; Middle English spasme < Latin spasmus < Greek spasmós convulsion, derivative of spân to draw a sword or cord, wrench (off), convulse
2. fit, storm, flash, spurt. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for spasm
  • Coronary artery spasm is a temporary constriction of an artery in the heart.
  • Whenever he was stuck in a meeting, he'd grip his pen and hold it down on a piece of paper, waiting for the spasm to kick in.
  • The spasm can slow or stop blood flow through the artery.
  • If you have peritonitis, touching the belly area may cause a spasm of the muscles.
  • Some people have muscle spasm and contractions in the tendons.
  • The muscle spasm and stiffness accompanying back pain can feel particularly uncomfortable.
  • Calcium blockers seem to be effective in preventing and relieving coronary artery spasm.
  • In an attempt to stabilize the vertebrae, my back muscles go into spasm several times a year, sending me into bed for days.
  • The next morning, the marriage comes apart in a spasm of mutual recrimination.
  • The fish came to my first cast, bending the bamboo rod into a smooth arc and sending a spasm of vibrations up my arm.
British Dictionary definitions for spasm


an involuntary muscular contraction, esp one resulting in cramp or convulsion
a sudden burst of activity, emotion, etc
Word Origin
C14: from Latin spasmus, from Greek spasmos a cramp, from span to tear
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 spasm

c.1400, from Old French spasme, from Latin spasmus "a spasm," from Greek spasmos "a spasm, convulsion," from span "draw up, tear away, contract violently, pull," from PIE *spe- "stretch." Figurative sense of "a sudden convulsion" (of emotion, politics, etc.) is attested from 1817.


1900, from spasm (n.). Related: Spasmed; spasming.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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spasm in Medicine

spasm (spāz'əm)

  1. A sudden involuntary contraction of a muscle or group of muscles.

  2. A muscle spasm.

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