[ par-uh-noi-uh ]
/ ˌpær əˈnɔɪ ə /
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Psychiatry. a mental disorder characterized by systematized delusions and the projection of personal conflicts, which are ascribed to the supposed hostility of others, sometimes progressing to disturbances of consciousness and aggressive acts believed to be performed in self-defense or as a mission.
baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others.
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Also Archaic, par·a·noe·a [par-uh-nee-uh] /ˌpær əˈni ə/ .

Origin of paranoia

1805–15; <New Latin <Greek paránoia madness. See para-1, nous, -ia
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does paranoia mean?

Paranoia is a mental disorder characterized by delusions and feelings of extreme distrust, suspicion, and being targeted by others.

Paranoia is also commonly used more generally to mean extreme suspicion or irrational distrust of others. It’s important to understand that while paranoia is used generally outside of its psychiatric usage in a way that makes it seem less serious, having paranoia is a major symptom of disorders like paranoid schizophrenia and paranoid personality disorder.

The adjective paranoid can be used to describe a person, action, or thought that exhibits paranoia.

A rare alternate spelling for the word is paranoea.

Example: Locking my doors at night isn’t a sign of paranoia—it just means I’m being cautious.

Where does paranoia come from?

The first records of the word paranoia used in a general way come from around the 1950s, but its use in the context of psychology is recorded much earlier. It derives from the Greek paránoia, meaning “madness.” Paranoia is formed from para-, meaning “abnormal” or “defective,” and nous, meaning “mind.”

Most people understand the concept of what it means for a person to have paranoia: their fear is heightened, they sense danger everywhere, and they feel like everyone is conspiring against them. While most people may have had similar feelings at one time or another, people who have been diagnosed with paranoia, such as paranoid personality disorder and paranoid schizophrenia, experience them to an extreme degree, sometimes in the form of delusions. Such delusions often focus on what’s perceived as constant persecution from others. Still, both paranoia and paranoid are very commonly used in a more general way that is usually negative.

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What are some other forms related to paranoia?

  • paranoea (rare alternate spelling)
  • paranoid (adjective)
  • paranoiac (noun, adjective)
  • paranoeac (noun, adjective)

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


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

How is paranoia used in real life?

Paranoia is a formal psychiatric term, but it is commonly used in a more general or casual way.



How to use paranoia in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for paranoia

/ (ˌpærəˈnɔɪə) /

a form of schizophrenia characterized by a slowly progressive deterioration of the personality, involving delusions and often hallucinations
a mental disorder characterized by any of several types of delusions, in which the personality otherwise remains relatively intact
informal intense fear or suspicion, esp when unfounded

Derived forms of paranoia

paranoiac (ˌpærəˈnɔɪɪk) or paranoic (ˌpærəˈnəʊɪk), adjective, noun

Word Origin for paranoia

C19: via New Latin from Greek: frenzy, from paranoos distraught, from para- 1 + noos mind
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

Cultural definitions for paranoia

[ (par-uh-noy-uh) ]

A form of psychosis marked by delusions of persecution and of grandeur. One who suffers from paranoia is paranoid.

notes for paranoia

In popular terminology, a “paranoid” personality is characterized by suspicion and distrust of others; a tendency to look for hidden meaning behind other people's actions; argumentativeness; complaining; low tolerance for criticism; and a constant display of one's own talents, accomplishments, independence, and rationality.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.