[ kool-ruh-foh-bee-uh ]
/ ˌkul rəˈfoʊ bi ə /
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noun Psychiatry.
an irrational or disproportionate fear of clowns.
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Origin of coulrophobia

First recorded in 1980-85; coulro- (perhaps from Greek kolon “limb”; with the sense of “stilt-walker,” hence “clown”) + -phobia

OTHER WORDS FROM coulrophobia

coul·ro·pho·bic, adjective, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does coulrophobia mean?

Coulrophobia is the abnormal fear of clowns.

Some people have phobias, which are fears associated with specific objects or activities. These abnormal (unusual) fears are typically considered irrational (not based on reason) because the object of the fear isn’t usually harmful. Often, these fears are formed around a traumatic event.

Many (most?) people have a fear of clowns, but usually it doesn’t rise to the level of true coulrophobia.

Example: I could never go to the circus because I have coulrophobia.

Where does coulrophobia come from?

Coulrophobia follows the same pattern as many words for specific phobias, such as arachnophobia (fear of spiders). The -phobia part comes from a Greek word meaning “fear.” The first part of coulrophobia is likely based on the Greek word kolon, meaning “limb,” perhaps in reference to stilts, which many clowns walk on in circus acts. (Yes, this makes them even creepier.)

The concept of the fear of clowns has been magnified by pop culture, with many horror movies based on this idea. But clinically diagnosed coulrophobia is uncommon. Many behavioral psychologists suggest that coulrophobia symptoms, such as fear or discomfort, are found in many people, but not many people actually experience the crippling anxiety and dread associated with the condition.

The fear of clowns is not fully understood, but research suggests that their exaggerated facial makeup may be to blame.

Coulrophobia, like other -phobia words, is more often used in formal settings, since the more straightforward phrase fear of clowns usually suffices.

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What are some other forms of coulrophobia?

What are some synonyms for coulrophobia?

  • fear of clowns

What are some words that share a root or word element with coulrophobia?

What are some words that often get used in discussing coulrophobia?

How is coulrophobia used in real life?

Coulrophobia is typically used by psychologists and in behavioral studies, or by those who want to use a fancy name instead of fear of clowns.



Try using coulrophobia!

Is coulrophobia used correctly in the following sentence?

I am afraid of being up this high because I have coulrophobia.