Word of the Day



a serious medical condition that affects the brain and makes you suddenly shake in an uncontrolled way or become unconscious

Origin and usage

The word epilepsy is derived from the 16th century French word ‘epilepsie’, which came via Latin from the Greek word ‘epilepsis’ meaning ‘a seizure’.  Epilepsy was once called ‘falling sickness’ in English, but the more technical term started to be used sometime in the 1570s.


Epilepsy refers to a serious medical condition that affects the brain, causing a range of symptoms that usually includes seizures, unusual feelings throughout the body, and even brief periods of unconsciousness.

Epilepsy affects people all over the world, both male and female, of all ages, races and ethnic origins.

Frequent seizures are one of the most common symptoms of epilepsy. In fact, hundreds of years ago, epilepsy was called ‘falling sickness’ because sufferers sometimes fell to the ground, suddenly overcome by uncontrollable shaking or extreme stiffness in their limbs. However, a person with epilepsy may experience different kinds of seizures: they may stare into the distance for a length of time, they may twitch or shake only slightly, they may become confused or agitated, or they may appear to move in a repeated motion for several minutes.

There are medications and surgeries that can help people with epilepsy control their symptoms and greatly reduce their risk of having another seizure. Some children with epilepsy may even outgrow the condition as they get older.


Epilepsy is a disease in the shadows. Patients are often reluctant to admit their condition… because there’s still a great deal of stigma and mystery surrounding the disease that plagued such historical figures as Julius Caesar, Edgar Allan Poe and Lewis Carroll.”

(Lynda Resnick)

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary is an award-winning, one-stop reference for English learners and speakers around the world.

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