Definition of lockjaw in US English:



  • 1(especially in nonmedical use) tetanus.

    ‘for hundreds of years the most dreaded diseases were leprosy and lockjaw’
    • ‘The victim refused to have his fingers amputated although he was given medical advice that failure to do so would result in lockjaw and his death.’
    • ‘Tetanus or lockjaw may not seem to be a compelling disease to vaccinate against in elderly adults but 92 % of all cases occur in adults and 71 % are over the age of fifty.’
    • ‘Thoreau maintained a close relationship with his brother up until the latter's death of lockjaw following a freak accident.’
    • ‘Of course that first thing that sprang to mind was lockjaw, but I've not been hammering any rusty nails recently, so it's unlikely.’
    • ‘An antitetanus serum introduced at the turn of the century greatly reduced the incidence of wounded men succumbing to lockjaw.’
    • ‘Mrs Wilby said she had previously seen tetanus - often known as lockjaw - in animals.’
    • ‘Tetanus, also called lockjaw, is a disease with uncontrolled muscle spasms caused by a bacterium in a local wound.’
    • ‘Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is a serious but preventable disease that affects the body's muscles and nerves.’
    • ‘Symptoms of the infection include muscle rigidity and spasms, particularly of the face and jaw, hence its common name lockjaw.’
    • ‘Is the likelihood of my coming down with lockjaw or diphtheria high enough to warrant a vaccination?’
    1. 1.1 Spasm of the jaw muscles, causing the mouth to remain tightly closed, typically as a symptom of tetanus.
      ‘if your child develops lockjaw—particularly after sustaining a wound—seek medical attention right away’
      The technical medical term is trismus
      figurative ‘I laughed until I got lockjaw’
      • ‘Tetanus often begins with mild spasms in the jaw muscles-also known as lockjaw or trismus.’
      • ‘It's a terrible and often fatal disease starting with muscle spasms in the jaw and face, called lockjaw, then spreading.’
      • ‘If tetanus attacks the jaw muscles it causes lockjaw.’
      • ‘Cephalic tetanus, the least common, causes muscle spasms in the face, leading to a classic case of lockjaw.’
    2. 1.2US informal usually as modifier An accent associated with the upper class of the northeastern US, characterized by a supposed lack of movement of the mouth and jaw.
      ‘he disdained the preppy men with lockjaw accents who populated Nantucket during the summer’
      • ‘She would stride onto the stage, sit confidently, legs crossed, and, in that austere, Waspy lockjaw voice that has become her trademark, do what she does best - sell order and beauty, aspiration and a sort of perfection.’
      • ‘It is hard to imagine two snobbish East Coast intellectuals with lockjaw patrician accents being invited onto prime-time television now to opine on the hot-button issues of the day.’
      • ‘Even though he was raised in working-class 'burbs, he acquired a hint of Main Line lockjaw.’
      • ‘He was a prominent figure in New York's social scene, with his lockjaw accent, unfailing good humor, and boundless enthusiasm for new experiences.’
      • ‘He dressed himself in white, popped his collar toward the heavens, picked up a mallet, and announced in his bogus rich boy's lockjaw, "Croquet anyone?"’
      • ‘A hint of Long Island lockjaw crept into her voice, which I knew happened only in times of extreme stress.’
      • ‘With his lockjaw voice and nose for journalistic stunts, George was a WASP daredevil.’