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[fri-nol-uh-jee, fre-] /frɪˈnɒl ə dʒi, frɛ-/
a psychological theory or analytical method based on the belief that certain mental faculties and character traits are indicated by the configurations of the skull.
Origin of phrenology
An Americanism dating back to 1795-1805; phreno- + -logy
Related forms
[fren-l-oj-ik] /ˌfrɛn lˈɒdʒ ɪk/ (Show IPA),
phrenological, adjective
phrenologically, adverb
phrenologist, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for phrenology
Historical Examples
  • But the march of craniology or phrenology, by whatever name it is called, is directly the reverse of this.

    Thoughts on Man William Godwin
  • Your eldest has the brow of an observer, if there be the least truth in phrenology.

  • phrenology confirms this; for her amative developments are singularly prominent.

    City Crimes Greenhorn
  • The exponents of phrenology are themselves to blame for this.

    How to Become Rich William Windsor
  • I proceed, therefore, to explain the self-adjusting mechanism of phrenology, which is very similar to that of the Pseudo-sciences.

    The Professor at the Breakfast Table Oliver Wendell Holmes (Sr.)
  • In this lecture, ladies and gentlemen, I have demonstrated the theory of phrenology.

    How to Become Rich William Windsor
  • But this is not because there are any special grounds for such opinions in phrenology or mesmerism.

  • If there is any truth in phrenology, they must have their share of the brutal passions.

  • I will, therefore, commence by looking our subject squarely in the face, and establishing a concise definition of phrenology.

    How to Become Rich William Windsor
  • I want to call your attention, he said to his wife, to this illustration of the truth of phrenology.

    Nasby in Exile David R. Locke
British Dictionary definitions for phrenology


(formerly) the branch of science concerned with localization of function in the human brain, esp determination of the strength of the faculties by the shape and size of the skull overlying the parts of the brain thought to be responsible for them
Derived Forms
phrenological (ˌfrɛnəˈlɒdʒɪkəl) adjective
phrenologist, noun
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 phrenology

1815, literally "mental science," from phreno- + -logy "study of." Applied to the theory of mental faculties originated by Gall and Spurzheim that led to the 1840s mania for reading personality clues in the shape of one's skull and the "bumps" of the head. Related: Phrenological; phrenologist.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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phrenology in Medicine

phrenology phre·nol·o·gy (frĭ-nŏl'ə-jē)
The study of the shape and protuberances of the skull, based on the now discredited belief that they reveal character and mental capacity.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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phrenology in Science
The study of the shape of the skull as a means of determining character and intelligence. Phrenology has been disproven as a science.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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