plural idées fixes (ˌ)ē-ˌdā-ˈfēks How to pronounce idée fixe (audio)
: 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 examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'idée fixe.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French, literally, fixed idea

First Known Use

1836, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of idée fixe was in 1836


Dictionary Entries Near idée fixe

Cite this Entry

“Idée fixe.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition

idée fixe

plural idées fixes -ˈfēks(-əz) How to pronounce idée fixe (audio)
: an idea that takes over a person's mind

French, literally "fixed idea"

Medical Definition

idée fixe

plural idées fixes
: 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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