Summary: Every Monday, Beyond Talk explores one word—including pronunciation, definition and etymology—to help you improve your vocabulary. Today, we look at a word that goes with our current blog post series on fear: phobia.
Fear is a human response. We may not like it much, but the fact is, it's adaptive: Fear protects us from harm by sending signals to our brains that make us fight for survival or flee for safety. Sometimes, however, fear makes us freeze up and sends us into an unnecessary panic that prevents our ability to assess the situation clearly. This is when the natural reaction of fear changes from friend to enemy.
A phobia (FO - BEE - ya) is a fear-based belief system that petrifies, or freezes, someone with fright. From the original Greek phobos for fear, this word entered into common English usage in 1786. According to Merriam-Webster.com, it is "an exaggerated, usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects or situation."
Common phobias include:
Acrophobia - fear of heights
Agorophobia - an extreme fear of open spaces (highly extreme sufferers sometimes refuse to leave their home for years on end)
Arachnaphobia - fear of spiders
Cynophobia - an excessive fear of dogs
Hydrophobia - fear of water (also a symptom of rabies)
Mysophobia - the compulsive fear of dirt and germs
Pteromerhanophobia - fear of flying
Trypanophobia - the fear of shots, needles, injections
For more phobia categories, check out this online Top 10 List, also from Merriam-Webster. (Number 10 is, darkly, my favorite.) We all have some aversions. What makes you phobic?
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