• synonyms


[fri-nol-uh-jee, fre-]
  1. 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.
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Origin of phrenology

An Americanism dating back to 1795–1805; phreno- + -logy
Related formsphren·o·log·ic [fren-l-oj-ik] /ˌfrɛn lˈɒdʒ ɪk/, phren·o·log·i·cal, adjectivephren·o·log·i·cal·ly, adverbphre·nol·o·gist, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for phrenology

Historical Examples

  • But beyond this, Phrenology has not gone, and probably will never go.

    Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 59, No. 364, February 1846


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

    City Crimes


  • Your eldest has the brow of an observer, if there be the least truth in phrenology.

  • I only said that is the way I should practise "Phrenology" for a living.

    The Professor at the Breakfast Table

    Oliver Wendell Holmes (Sr.)

  • The exponents of Phrenology are themselves to blame for this.

    How to Become Rich

    William Windsor

British Dictionary definitions for phrenology


  1. (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
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Derived Formsphrenological (ˌfrɛnəˈlɒdʒɪkəl), adjectivephrenologist, 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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

phrenology in Medicine


  1. The study of the shape and protuberances of the skull, based on the now discredited belief that they reveal character and mental capacity.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.