Definition of lockjaw in US English:



  • 1(especially in nonmedical use) tetanus.

    ‘for hundreds of years the most dreaded diseases were leprosy and lockjaw’
    • ‘Mrs Wilby said she had previously seen tetanus - often known as lockjaw - in animals.’
    • ‘Symptoms of the infection include muscle rigidity and spasms, particularly of the face and jaw, hence its common name lockjaw.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Tetanus, also called lockjaw, is a disease with uncontrolled muscle spasms caused by a bacterium in a local wound.’
    • ‘An antitetanus serum introduced at the turn of the century greatly reduced the incidence of wounded men succumbing to 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, also known as lockjaw, is a serious but preventable disease that affects the body's muscles and nerves.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Is the likelihood of my coming down with lockjaw or diphtheria high enough to warrant a vaccination?’
    • ‘Thoreau maintained a close relationship with his brother up until the latter's death of lockjaw following a freak accident.’
    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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It's a terrible and often fatal disease starting with muscle spasms in the jaw and face, called lockjaw, then spreading.’
    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’
      • ‘He was a prominent figure in New York's social scene, with his lockjaw accent, unfailing good humor, and boundless enthusiasm for new experiences.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Even though he was raised in working-class 'burbs, he acquired a hint of Main Line lockjaw.’
      • ‘With his lockjaw voice and nose for journalistic stunts, George was a WASP daredevil.’