coul·​ro·​pho·​bia ˌkül-rə-ˈfō-bē-ə How to pronounce coulrophobia (audio)
: abnormal fear of clowns
The term for fear of clowns—coulrophobia—is of fairly recent invention, coined, perhaps, as enough grownups found they were not alone in lingering childhood queasiness over exposure to big people dressed like Bozo.Richard Dodds
Brian Belden, a child psychologist at Children's Mercy, said there is such a thing as irrational fear of clowns (the clinical term is coulrophobia) that afflicts children and adults.Robert Trussell
coulrophobe noun
or coulrophobic
plural coulrophobes or coulrophobics
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the man who created one of the most frightening evil clowns in literary history has admitted to being a bit of a coulrophobe himself. Rebecca Hawkes
More than 70 coulrophobics and parents complained about posters and bus ads featuring the head of a scruffy, smiling clown doll with the tagline "They know what scares you". Dugald Baird
coulrophobic adjective
Want to ruin your coulrophobic friend's day? Schedule a donut delivery from a scary clown driving an ambulance called the "emergency donut vehicle." Matthew Schniper

Examples of coulrophobia in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Some people have coulrophobia, fear of clowns. Marc Bona, cleveland, 14 Feb. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'coulrophobia.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


coulro- (of unknown meaning and origin) + -phobia

Note: A word apparently invented in the 1990's. Various suggested origins for coulro-, as Greek kōlobathristḗs "stilt-walker" (attested only by the lexicographical collector Hesychius), are too phonetically distant to be plausible.

First Known Use

1998, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of coulrophobia was in 1998

Dictionary Entries Near coulrophobia

Cite this Entry

“Coulrophobia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2024.

Medical Definition


coul·​ro·​pho·​bia ˌkül-rə-ˈfō-bē-ə, ˌkäl- How to pronounce coulrophobia (audio)
: abnormal fear of clowns
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