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

Synonyms for phobia


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: agoraphobia.

Origin of -phobia

< Latin < Greek, equivalent to -phob(os) -phobe + -ia -ia Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for phobia

Contemporary Examples of phobia

Historical Examples of phobia

  • 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.


    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.

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for phobia



psychiatry an abnormal intense and irrational fear of a given situation, organism, or object

Word Origin for phobia

C19: from Greek phobos fear


n combining form

indicating an extreme abnormal fear of or aversion toacrophobia; claustrophobia
Derived Forms-phobic, adj combining form

Word Origin for -phobia

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

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

phobia in Medicine




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



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.

phobia in Culture



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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.