The root hyster- comes from the Greek word for womb. So, the psychological disturbance termed hysteria was originally believed to be a disease of women and resulted from some disturbance in the uterus.
The adjective hysteric appears in the mid-17th century. From Richard Tomlinson’s 1657 translation of Renodæus’ Medicinal Dispensatory:
The Plague is a poyson...which retained in Histerick women.
Hysteria first appears in 1801 in the pages of The Medical and Physical Journal:
Account of Diseases in an Eastern District of London...Chronic Diseases...Hysteria.
(Source: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition)
Copyright 1997-2014, by David Wilton