idée fixe

\ (ˌ)ē-ˌdā-ˈfēks How to pronounce idée fixe (audio) \
plural idées fixes\ (ˌ)ē-​ˌdā-​ˈfēks How to pronounce idée fixe (audio) \

Definition of idée fixe

: an idea that dominates one's mind especially for a prolonged period : obsession

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The term idée fixe is a 19th-century French coinage. French writer Honoré de Balzac used it in his 1830 novella Gobseck to describe an obsessive idea. By 1836, Balzac's more generalized use of the term had carried over into English, where idée fixe was embraced as a clinical and literary term for a persistent preoccupation or delusional idea that dominates a person's mind. Although it is still used in both psychology and music, nowadays idée fixe is also applied to milder and more pedestrian obsessions.

Examples of idée fixe in a Sentence

had this bizarre idée fixe that people were spying on her with electromagnetic waves
Recent Examples on the Web This is perhaps why their partnership remains an idee fixe so many decades later. Washington Post, 19 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'idée fixe.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of idée fixe

1836, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for idée fixe

French, literally, fixed idea

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The first known use of idée fixe was in 1836

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Cite this Entry

“Idée fixe.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for idée fixe

idée fixe

\ (ˌ)ē-ˌdā-ˈfēks \
plural idées fixes\ -​ˈfēks(-​əz) \

Medical Definition of idée fixe

: a usually delusional idea that dominates the whole mental life during a prolonged period (as in certain mental disorders)

called also fixed idea


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