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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
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Dantor closed his eyes, and a spasm of pain twisted his features.

    The Copper-Clad World Harl Vincent
  • Ma nearly had a spasm, but she liked the looks of things when we had finished.

  • The Custer massacre threw the whole country into a spasm of fear.

    Cattle-Ranch to College Russell Doubleday
  • After a time the spasm relaxed, but her condition remained alarming.

    K Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • Sally did not see him during a spasm, so that she did not know how noticeable the change was from day to day or from hour to hour.

    Concerning Sally William John Hopkins
  • The spasm loosed beads of perspiration which stood cold on his forehead.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • A spasm of emotion passed over the woman's face and her hands clenched white with passion.

    The Last Galley Arthur Conan Doyle
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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