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n 1 a  :  an acute infectious disease characterized by tonic spasm of voluntary muscles and esp. of the muscles of the jaw and caused by the specific toxin produced by a bacterium of the genus Clostridium (C. tetani) which is usu. introduced through a wound - compare LOCKJAW   b  :  TETANUS BACILLUS  2  :  prolonged contraction of a muscle resulting from a series of motor impulses following one another too rapidly to permit intervening relaxation of the muscle .
Similar sounding terms:  tet·a·nize 

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