Word of the Day


© Getty Images
Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


a very strong feeling of disliking or being afraid of someone or something

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

Phobia comes from the Latin combining form ‘-phobia’, which itself came from a Greek word meaning ‘fear’. It was first used in English in the late 18th century.


Today is Friday 13th, a date that evokes an irrational fear in some people. Fear of the number 13 is known as triskaidekaphobia, while fear specifically of Friday 13th is paraskevidekatriaphobia. As well as being a noun, -phobia is a highly productive suffix. It is used to create nouns that refer to phobias in the psychological sense, such as arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and agoraphobia (fear of open and public spaces, among other things). Such phobias can be disabling for those unfortunate enough to suffer from them. The suffix is also used more loosely, to refer to suspicion or dislike of certain things, so technophobia is suspicion and dislike of new technology, especially computers, and nomophobia is fear of being without your phone. -phobia also forms nouns referring to prejudice towards certain groups of people, like homophobia, transphobia, or xenophobia, which is fear and dislike of anyone who comes from a different culture or country. Someone who has a phobia is phobic, and -phobic is also a very productive suffix.


“A lot of my friends who grew up in Manhattan have a strange phobia about Brooklyn. It’s big and scary and they get lost.”

“I’m fascinated by the whole clown phobia thing because I personally don’t have it.”
(Ryan Murphy)

Related words

fear, fright, horror, terror

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

Leave a Comment