Definition of Paroxysm

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

Paroxysm: In medicine, a paroxysm is a violent attack. It may be due to the sudden occurrence of symptoms or the acute exacerbation (the abrupt worsening) of preexisting symptoms.

You may have "a paroxysm of coughing" as opposed, for example, to "a lingering cough."

The word "paroxysm" comes from the Greek "para-," during + "oxys," sharp or acute. The root "oxys" was also used by the founder of modern chemistry Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743-94) to coin the word "oxygen."

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