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[foh-bee-uh] /ˈfoʊ bi ə/
a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.
Origin of phobia
First recorded in 1780-90; extracted from nouns ending in -phobia
aversion, hatred.


a combining form meaning “fear,” occurring in loanwords from Greek (hydrophobia); on this model, used in the names of mental disorders that have the general sense “dread of, aversion toward” that specified by the initial element:
< Latin < Greek, equivalent to -phob(os) -phobe + -ia -ia Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for phobia
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In cities the choice of animals which can become the object of phobia is not great.

    Totem and Taboo Sigmund Freud
  • He ran away years ago and she's gotten a phobia about people.

    Gargoyles Ben Hecht
  • The phobia is thrown before the anxiety like a fortress on the frontier.

    Dream Psychology Sigmund Freud
  • The phobia had been further complicated by the traumatic qualities of his experience in the Dream Shop.

    The Status Civilization Robert Sheckley
  • If I'd known anything about Pietro's expedition, I'd have wrapped myself in my phobia and loved it.

    Let'em Breathe Space Lester del Rey
  • She had been afraid of menstruation and of marriage, and had at this time almost a phobia for pregnancy and childbirth.

    Outwitting Our Nerves Josephine A. Jackson and Helen M. Salisbury
  • Or the effect may be the development of a phobia that in extreme cases may cause the death of the patient.

British Dictionary definitions for phobia


(psychiatry) an abnormal intense and irrational fear of a given situation, organism, or object
Word Origin
C19: from Greek phobos fear


combining form
indicating an extreme abnormal fear of or aversion to: acrophobia, claustrophobia
Derived Forms
-phobic, combining_form:in_adjective
Word Origin
via Latin from Greek, from phobos fear
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for phobia

"irrational fear, horror, aversion," 1786, perhaps on model of similar use in French, abstracted from compounds in -phobia, from Greek -phobia, from phobos "fear, panic fear, terror, outward show of fear; object of fear or terror," originally "flight" (still the only sense in Homer), but it became the common word for "fear" via the notion of "panic, fright" (cf. phobein "put to flight, frighten"), from PIE root *bhegw- "to run" (cf. Lithuanian begu "to flee;" Old Church Slavonic begu "flight," bezati "to flee, run;" Old Norse bekkr "a stream"). Psychological sense attested by 1895.


word-forming element meaning "excessive or irrational fear of," from Latin -phobia and directly from Greek -phobia "panic fear of," from phobos "fear" (see phobia). In widespread popular use with native words from c.1800. Related: -phobic.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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phobia in Medicine

phobia pho·bi·a (fō'bē-ə)

  1. A persistent, abnormal, or irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid the feared stimulus.

  2. A strong fear, dislike, or aversion.

-phobia suff.
An intense, abnormal, or illogical fear of a specified thing: claustrophobia.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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phobia in Culture
phobia [(foh-bee-uh)]

An extreme and often unreasonable fear of some object, concept, situation, or person.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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