1. A sudden outburst of emotion or action: a paroxysm of laughter.
a. A sudden attack, recurrence, or intensification of a disease.
b. A spasm or fit; a convulsion.
[Middle English paroxism, periodic attack of a disease, from Medieval Latin paroxysmus, from Greek paroxusmos, from paroxūnein, to stimulate, irritate : para-, intensive pref.; see PARA-1 + oxūnein, to goad, sharpen (from oxus, sharp; see ak- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots).]
par′ox·ysmal (-ək-sĭzməl) adj.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.