Definition of petit mal in English:

petit mal


  • 1A mild form of epilepsy characterized by brief spells of unconsciousness without loss of posture.

    Compare with grand mal

    ‘This led in particular to a more detailed differentiation and classification of epilepsy, including terms still in use today, such as grand mal, petit mal, absence seizures, and status epilepticus.’
    • ‘Doctors dispelled the depression as an extensive form of epilepsy, petit mal.’
    • ‘The terms seizure and convulsion include grand mal, petit mal, absence, myoclonic, tonic-clonic, and focal motor seizures and signs.’
    • ‘Nocturnal seizures can be grand mal, petit mal, partial-complex, vegetative or paroxysmal nocturnal dystonias.’
    • ‘Epilepsy is called grand mal (major illness) or petit mal also called absence attacks.’
    1. 1.1A petit mal epileptic fit.
      ‘he wasn't out of his petit mal yet’
      • ‘I myself had pediatric petit mal epilepsy (It cleared as I went through puberty), and when I had my first long lasting seizure it was actually pretty undramatic.’
      • ‘We're not too sure whether James had a petit mal seizure, (he suffers from epilepsy), on the bus on the way home from his post school option program.’
      • ‘A is epileptic; he had daily petit mal seizures as a child which would case memory loss, so he is an unreliable witness.’
      • ‘On seeing it, I thought that it might have been a petit mal epileptic seizure, but the reports seem to rule that out.’
      • ‘I can see some spark of petit mal beginning in those snuffles over there.’


petit mal

/ˈpedē ˌmäl/ /ˈpɛdi ˌmɑl/


Late 19th century from French, literally ‘little sickness’.