General English


  • noun a term formerly used in psychiatry, but now informally used for a condition in which the person appears unstable, and may scream and wave their arms about, but also is repressed, and may be slow to react to outside stimuli

Origin & History of “hysteria”

Greek hustérā meant ‘womb’ (it is related to Latin uterus ‘womb’). The adjective derived from it was husterikós ‘suffering in the womb’. this passed into Latin as hystericus, which formed the basis of the modern Latin noun hysteria, a term coined in the 19th century for a neurotic condition supposedly peculiar to women (in popular parlance it was called ‘the vapours’). Hysterectomy ‘surgical removal of the womb’ dates from the late 19th century.