Use the verb paralyze to describe something that makes it impossible to move or function, like a snowstorm that threatens to paralyze a city.

Accent the first syllable in paralyze: “PA-ruh-lies.” Until 1805, the only way to paralyze someone was physically — the word was used to indicate that a person had lost the ability to move their body, often as a result of an accident of illness. More recently, the definition has widened to include figurative uses like being “paralyzed by fear.” It doesn’t mean you are literally immobilized — just that you are so scared, it feels that way.

Definitions of paralyze
  1. verb

    cause to be paralyzed and immobile

    “The poison
    paralyzed him”
    paralyzed her”
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    affect with palsy
    type of:

    immobilise, immobilize

    cause to be unable to move

  2. verb

    make powerless and unable to function

    “The bureaucracy
    paralyzes the entire operation”
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    type of:

    deactivate, inactivate

    make inactive

Word Family