he·​be·​phre·​nia ˌhē-bə-ˈfrē-nē-ə How to pronounce hebephrenia (audio)
: a form of schizophrenia characterized especially by incoherence, delusions lacking an underlying theme, and affect that is usually flat, inappropriate, or silly
ˌhē-bə-ˈfre-nik How to pronounce hebephrenia (audio)
adjective or noun

Examples of hebephrenia in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web His acceptance speech for the Best Actor prize was a more interesting performance than the hebephrenia Phoenix displayed in Joker. Armond White, National Review, 5 Feb. 2020

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Word History


borrowed from German Hebephrenie "type of mental disorder occurring at puberty," from Greek hēbē- (probably extracted from hēbētḗs "having reached sexual maturity, adult," from hēbē-, variant stem of hēbáō, hēbân "to reach puberty, be in the prime of youth" —derivative of hḗbē "youth, vigor of youth, sexual maturity"— + -tēs, adjective suffix) + phren-, phrḗn "midriff, seat of the passions, mind, wits" + German -ie -ia entry 1; Greek hḗbē perhaps going back to Indo-European *(H)i̯ēgw-eh2, whence also Lithuanian jėgà "strength, force," Latvian ję̄ga "power, sense" — more at frenetic

Note: The term was apparently introduced by the German psychiatrist Karl Kahlbaum (1828-99), though first used in medical literature by Kahlbaum's associate Ewald Hecker (1843-1909), in "Die Hebephrenie. Ein Beitrag zur klinischen Psychiatrie," Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und für klinische Medicin (Virchows Archiv), 52. Band, 3. Heft (21. März 1871), p. 405: "Kahlbaum hat in seinen Vorlesungen zuerst darauf merksam gemacht, dass dieses gewiss auffälliges Merkmal auch einen anderen Krankheitsform zukommt, die mit der Paralyse im Uebrigen nicht viel gemeinsames hat: es ist die von ihm aufgestellte Hebephrenie, eine Form der Geistesstörung, die ebenfalls wechselnde Zustandsformen zeigt und im Anschluss an die Jahre der Pubertät auftretend, mit dem in dieser Zeit vor sich gehenden grossen Umschwung der körperlichen und geistigen Entwicklung in engen Zusammenhange steht." ("Kahlbaum was the first to draw attention in his lectures to the fact that this most striking feature [the onset of dementia associated with general paresis] is attached to another form of disease with which it otherwise has little in common: hebephrenia, a kind of mental disorder put forward by him that likewise exhibits changing states and, emerging in association with the years of puberty, is closely connected with the extreme alterations in physical and mental development at this time.") There appear to be no precedents in Greek for the use of hḗbē "youth, vigor of youth, sexual maturity" as the initial element of a compound, but the expected form would be hēbo-, which does not occur in modern Greco-Latin word formation. The form hēbē-, on the other hand, can be found in a number of New Latin botanical terms dating from at least the early nineteenth century, as hebecarpus "having pubescent seeds," hebegynus "having pubescent ovaries," etc. The combining element -phrenia (German -phrenie, French -phrénie) was apparently used first in French paraphrénie "mental illness with delusional symptoms," introduced by the Belgian physician Joseph Guislain in Traité sur les phrénopathies (Brussels, 1833).

First Known Use

1883, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of hebephrenia was in 1883

Dictionary Entries Near hebephrenia

Cite this Entry

“Hebephrenia.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hebephrenia. Accessed 14 Jun. 2024.

Medical Definition


he·​be·​phre·​nia ˌhē-bə-ˈfrē-nē-ə How to pronounce hebephrenia (audio) -ˈfren-ē- How to pronounce hebephrenia (audio)
: a disorganized form of schizophrenia characterized especially by incoherence, delusions which if present lack an underlying theme, and affect that is flat, inappropriate, or silly
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