Word of the Day Archive
Thursday September 23, 1999
1. (Medicine) A sudden attack, intensification, or recurrence of a disease.
2. Any sudden and violent emotion or action; an outburst; a fit.
But when he's on target -- and more often than not he is -- he can send you into paroxysms of laughter.
-- William Triplett, "Drawing Laughter from a Well of Family Pain", Washington Post, June 13, 2002
Dickens had a paroxysm of rage: 'Bounding up from his chair, and throwing his knife and fork on his plate (which he smashed to atoms), he exclaimed: "Dolby! your infernal caution will be your ruin one of these days!"'
-- Edmund Wilson, "Dickens: The Two Scrooges", The Atlantic, April/May 1940
Mrs. Bumble, seeing at a glance that the decisive moment had now arrived, and that a blow struck for mastership on one side or another, must necessarily be final and conclusive, dropped into a chair, and with a loud scream that Mr. Bumble was a hard-hearted brute, fell into a paroxysm of tears.
-- Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist
Paroxysm is from Greek paroxusmos, from paroxunein, "to irritate, provoke or excite (literally to sharpen excessively)," from para-, "beyond" + oxunein, "to sharpen, to provoke."