Medically speaking, a coma is the state of protective deep sleep your body goes into when severely injured, as in a car crash. Daytime soap operas would be lost without a good coma every few weeks.

Coma comes from the Greek koma meaning "deep sleep." As with so many words with medical or scientific origins, coma has been appropriated for a far wider range of uses. The zombie-like trance you fall into at family get-togethers like Thanksgiving? That too is a coma, though your chances of recovery are far better than from a real coma. Unless you happen to sit next to Aunt Sadie.

Definitions of coma
  1. noun
    a state of deep and often prolonged unconsciousness; usually the result of disease or injury
    synonyms: comatoseness
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    Kussmaul's coma, diabetic coma
    coma that can develop in inadequately treated cases of diabetes mellitus
    hepatic coma
    coma that can occur in severe cases of liver disease
    type of:
    a state lacking normal awareness of the self or environment
  2. noun
    (astronomy) the luminous cloud of particles surrounding the frozen nucleus of a comet; forms as the comet approaches the sun and is warmed
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    type of:
    any collection of particles (e.g., smoke or dust) or gases that is visible
  3. noun
    (botany) a usually terminal tuft of bracts (as in the pineapple) or tuft of hairs (especially on certain seeds)
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    type of:
    tuft, tussock
    a bunch of hair or feathers or growing grass
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