Definition of phrenology in English:


Line breaks: phren|ology
Pronunciation: /frɪˈnɒlədʒi


[mass noun] chiefly historical
The detailed study of the shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character and mental abilities.
More example sentences
  • He finds himself drawn on a journey involving phrenology, the dodgy science of determining mental prowess from bumps on the head, involving a machine called a psychograph.
  • As the prototype for a normalizing physical anthropology, however, phrenology, with its value-laden stereotyping psycho-techniques, introduced new ethical problems.
  • In Bentham's day, the cutting edge of brain science was phrenology - the idea that you could read someone's character by feeling the contours of his or her skull.


early 19th century: from Greek phrēn, phren- 'mind' + -logy.



Pronunciation: /-nəˈlɒdʒɪk(ə)l/
More example sentences
  • These reports summarized the ethnic makeup of the United States, and included phrenological studies of different races.
  • True, his working environment is near-Victorian, with polished walnut desk, silver candelabra and a porcelain phrenological head.
  • I'm studying women's phrenological characteristics.


More example sentences
  • No one these days would argue such a thesis at length any more than they would pontificate on the brain-measuring taxonomies of 19th-century phrenologists who took the white man's superiority for granted.
  • Instead of countering these puny charges, let me just say that these allegations of inferior innards recall those of the phrenologists and racial purists in one of the darkest eras of modern history.
  • His death mask, which showed him to have had a sharply receding forehead, created problems for nineteenth century phrenologists since it ‘left no room for the organ of causality’.

Definition of phrenology in:

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day demoralize
Pronunciation: dɪˈmɒrəlʌɪz
cause (someone) to lose confidence or hope