I would like to know the exact difference between the terms paralysis, and palsy (as in mouth palsy or cerebral palsy). My impression is that both convey the meaning that to some extent, the person with the condition cannot move, but I'm not sure whether there is an associated understood comprehension of the severity of the problem, which may be different between paralysis and palsy, or whether palsy also implies further medical complications that are separate from paralysis. Than you for clarifying this grim set of terms. Thank you.

P.S.: Aren't all forms of paralysis cerebral, as in they originate in Somme communication flaw in the brain, as opposed to in the nervous system outside of the brain, where it is virtually impossible that a nerve does not communicate properly, unless it has been cut (or partially cut, in which case it would communicate partially), or perhaps if an amputation is present. Is this perhaps the difference between palsy and paralysis, one has to originate with a brain defect while the other could have to do with something in the nerve cells exterior to the brain?

Note: this post could be more suited for Health SE, but these are commonly used words, and it is my belief that, as language learners and users and health awareness people, we all need to know what they mean, and what the difference is, being conscious. Which leads me to also ask, if a paralysis is induced by a coma, does it count as a paralysis, as a palsy, as a cerebral palsy, or both. Please migrate my post if you are not in a situation to suitably answer my question, thank you.

1 Answer 1


I doubt whether this is about English! Anyway, being a physician, I can tell you that palsy is paralysis, just more specific. Also, the former one dysfunctions a body organ partially whereas in paralysis, it's a complete dysfunction of the organ.

Say, if there's paralysis of a right hand, it won't work at all. On the other hand, Bell's palsy will have partial dysfunction of the face.


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