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What is the word for a fear of ... ?

An extreme or irrational fear of something is known as a phobia, from the Greek word phobos 'fear'. There are various English words that describe the fear of particular objects, events, or situations. Some well-known examples include:

  • claustrophobia - fear of confined spaces
  • agoraphobia - fear of open or public places
  • arachnophobia -fear of spiders
  • acrophobia - fear of heights

Many other terms exist, but they tend to be used infrequently, such as coulrophobia, fear of clowns,  scopophobia, fear of being looked at, or ailurophobia, fear of cats. In general, it's more usual to simply to use the word 'phobia' preceded by the name of whatever it is that a person has a phobia about, e.g. he had a longstandng needle phobia.

 

For more information about phobias see the Oxford Dictionaries blog.

 

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