Word of the Day


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1. a serious injury affecting your neck, caused when the vehicle that you are in is hit from behind by another vehicle, which makes your head move violently
2. a hit from a whip

Origin and usage

The word whiplash dates back to the 1570s, meaning the literal lash or hit from a whip. The word is a combination of the Middle Low German ‘wippe’, which means ‘quick movement’, and the Middle English word ‘las’ meaning ‘a blow or stroke’. Use of the word whiplash in reference to a specific kind of head injury caused by a car accident is from 1955.


Whiplash most commonly refers to a type of head or neck injury caused by sudden movement. Often, whiplash injuries occur in traffic collisions, when one car is hit from behind by another, but whiplash can also be caused by falls, sports-related injuries or any other sudden blow or jolt to the head.

Symptoms of whiplash usually show up a day or two after the injury. These symptoms include things like headache, severe neck pain, jaw pain, blurred vision or ringing in the ears. Because whiplash injuries can also affect the area around the spinal cord, people who get whiplash may sometimes experience low back pain, numbness in their arms or hands or pain between the shoulder blades.

While ice and medications can be used to help ease the pain or discomfort caused by whiplash, the most effective treatment is to gently move the head and neck when necessary. Most people recover fully from whiplash injuries within a few weeks.


“It has been difficult to get back on the saddle, particularly after getting whiplash and concussion, but it’s just about understanding that sometimes it’s OK to say, ‘I don’t want to get back on my bike for a week’.”
(Lizzie Armitstead)

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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