[ 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.

Nearby words

  1. phrenocolic,
  2. phrenocolopexy,
  3. phrenogastric,
  4. phrenohepatic,
  5. phrenol.,
  6. phrenoplegia,
  7. phrenoptosia,
  8. phrenosin,
  9. phrensy,
  10. phrixus

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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for phrenology

British Dictionary definitions for phrenology


/ (frɪˈnɒlədʒɪ) /


(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 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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for phrenology


[ frĭ-nŏlə-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.