I just heard about the phrase 'crying fit' or 'crying fits'. What does the 'fit' mean here?
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- a sudden outburst of emotion: a fit of jealousy.
(American Heritage Dictionary)
- in this sense it means a sudden, usually short and sometimes uncontrollable, burst of emotion. So a crying fit would be a period of time where the person is crying quite intensely.
"Fit" here means a sudden and uncontrollable outburst of emotion.
In that specific case, it's
an onset, spell, or period of emotion, feeling, inclination, activity, etc.: a fit of anger; a fit of weeping.
In the general case, it can also be a sudden attack not just of emotion, but of just about anything:
a sudden, acute attack or manifestation of a disease, especially one marked by convulsions or unconsciousness: a fit of epilepsy.
That definition just speaks of disease, but I've definitely heard "a fit of carelessness" which I wouldn't think really matched either of the above, but does match the general case of "a sudden attack of (insert blank)".
Another word you may find similarly used is "jag," such as a "crying jag," which is "a period of unrestrained indulgence in an activity; spree; binge".
Definitions above for "fit" are from the second noun definition on dictionary.com. "jag" is from the second noun definition there as well.
A crying fit would be uncontrollable crying. You're crying about something and trying to stop, but you can't because every time you try you have to take a deep breath (with the sort of groaning sound) so you can continue to breathe.