Definition of embolism in US English:



  • Obstruction of an artery, typically by a clot of blood or an air bubble.

    ‘causes of cerebral embolism’
    ‘one patient died of a pulmonary embolism’
    • ‘Even so, thrombolytic therapy of pulmonary embolism does not dissolve the clot completely as it does with acute coronary thrombosis, and increases the risk of bleeding.’
    • ‘A computed tomographic scan demonstrated a pulmonary embolism, and anticoagulation therapy was initiated.’
    • ‘Serious obstructions, such as a pulmonary embolism, need emergency medical treatment.’
    • ‘Spiral computed tomography showed a pulmonary embolism in the left lower lobe.’
    • ‘For example, if the person has an air embolism in the arteries carrying blood to the brain, it may cause seizures.’
    lump, clump, mass, curdling
    View synonyms


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘the insertion of an intercalary period in the calendar’): via late Latin from Greek embolismos, from emballein ‘insert’. The medical sense dates from the mid 19th century.