[ zen-uh-foh-bee-uh, zee-nuh- ]
See synonyms for xenophobia on Thesaurus.com
  1. an aversion or hostility to, disdain for, or fear of foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers: Xenophobia and nationalism can be seen as a reaction to the rise of globalization.

  2. fear or dislike of the customs, dress, etc., of people who are culturally different from oneself:Learning a foreign language can help to overcome xenophobia.

Origin of xenophobia

First recorded in 1890–95; xeno- “foreign, strange” + -phobia “fear”

word story For xenophobia

Xenophobia entered English in the late 1800s. Its first element derives from the Greek word xénos , which means “stranger, guest” when used as a noun, and “alien, foreign, strange” when used as an adjective. The second element of xenophobia traces back to the Greek word phóbos , which means “fear, panic.” While the concept of xenophobia undoubtedly existed before the late 19th century, any feelings associated with xenophobia were not expressed with this particular word before that time.
More recently, the term xenophobia has been used by science-fiction writers to refer to fear or hatred of intelligent lifeforms from outer space. The term alien itself originally referred to foreigners, and only took on the extended meaning of extraterrestrial beings in the 1920s.
A related term that often comes up in the context of xenophobia is otherness : “the quality or state of being perceived or treated as different, foreign, strange, etc.” Otherness has existed in English since the 1500s, though its early uses were often in the context of a spiritual transcendence beyond the human experience. By the 1800s, otherness was used in reference to cultural foreignness.
While the etymology of xenophobia explicitly links it to the psychological response of fear, otherness can be thought of in terms of sociological identity, defining what is normative by naming what is not.

Other words from xenophobia

  • xen·o·pho·bic, adjective, noun

Words Nearby xenophobia

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use xenophobia in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for xenophobia


/ (ˌzɛnəˈfəʊbɪə) /

  1. hatred or fear of foreigners or strangers or of their politics or culture

Derived forms of xenophobia

  • xenophobic, adjective

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 xenophobia


[ (zen-uh-foh-bee-uh, zee-nuh-foh-bee-uh) ]

An unreasonable fear, distrust, or hatred of strangers, foreigners, or anything perceived as foreign or different.

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.