Definition of spastic in US English:



  • 1Relating to or affected by muscle spasm.

    1. 1.1 Relating to or denoting a form of muscular weakness (spastic paralysis) typical of cerebral palsy, caused by damage to the brain or spinal cord and involving reflex resistance to passive movement of the limbs and difficulty in initiating and controlling muscular movement.
      • ‘Tetanus is an acute, spastic paralytic illness caused by a toxin released from the bacterium Clostridium tetani.’
      • ‘Here the symptoms were epileptic seizures, spastic movements, dance-like twitching, and formication.’
      • ‘He has cerebral palsy affecting his whole body with spastic, continuous purposeless movements.’
      • ‘Typically, clients experiencing spastic paralysis are only able to use the involved limb in a limited manner because they lack the motor control needed for most activities.’
    2. 1.2offensive, dated (of a person) having cerebral palsy.
    3. 1.3offensive, informal Incompetent or uncoordinated.


offensive, dated
  • 1A person with cerebral palsy.

    1. 1.1informal An incompetent or uncoordinated person.


The word spastic has been used in medical senses since the 18th century. In the 1970s and 1980s it became a term of abuse, used mainly by children, directed toward any person regarded as incompetent or physically uncoordinated. Today any use of the word spastic in relation to a person is likely to cause offence, and it is preferable to use phrasing such as person with cerebral palsy instead


Mid 18th century: via Latin from Greek spastikos ‘pulling’, from span ‘pull’.