phre·nol·o·gy | \fri-ˈnä-lə-jē \

Definition of phrenology 

: the study of the conformation of the skull based on the belief that it is indicative of mental faculties and character

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Other Words from phrenology

phrenological \ˌfre-nə-ˈlä-ji-kəl, ˌfrē- \ adjective
phrenologist \fri-ˈnä-lə-jist \ noun

Examples of phrenology in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

What about Holocaust denial or whatever modern incarnation of phrenology posits that black people lack sufficient intellect to vote? Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, "Why let the Klan march at a private historically black college? ‘This is not a First Amendment thing, man.’," 31 May 2018 Pseudosciences like phrenology were used to politely assert the inferiority of black people. Danielle Tcholakian, Longreads, "The Myth of Kevin Williamson," 7 Apr. 2018 The movie talks a bit about the pseudoscientific lineage of this kind of thought — phrenology, eugenics and other attempts to use data to enforce social hierarchies. John Defore, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Alt-Right: Age of Rage': Film Review | SXSW 2018," 10 Mar. 2018 Pseudosciences such as phrenology and eugenics have attempted to ascribe a biological rationalization for the oppression of certain groups. Harry Bruinius, The Christian Science Monitor, "Meritocracy and the history of the science of biological differences," 26 Aug. 2017 This is obviously not a side of phrenology that Mr. Colicchio, who is outspoken about his progressive politics, embraces. Kim Severson, New York Times, "Tom Colicchio Changes His Restaurant’s Racially Tinged Name," 22 Aug. 2017 This belief isn’t based on empirical evidence, but on a 19th-century hypothesis about free will that has more in common with phrenology than with our modern understanding of how brains work. Joanna Klein, New York Times, "Humans Have a Poor Sense of Smell? It’s Just a Myth," 11 May 2017 No chemistry department would extend an invitation to an alchemist; no reputable department of psychology would entertain a lecture espousing phrenology. Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker, "The Mistake the Berkeley Protesters Made about Milo Yiannopoulos," 15 Feb. 2017 By Pankaj Mishra Back in the 19th century, powerful men legitimating cruel inequalities thought phrenology was objective. Pankaj Mishra And Leslie Jamison, New York Times, "Is It Possible for a Writer to Be Objective?," 3 Jan. 2017

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

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First Known Use of phrenology

1805, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for phrenology

Greek phren-, phrēn

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The first known use of phrenology was in 1805

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More Definitions for phrenology


phre·nol·o·gy | \fri-ˈnäl-ə-jē \
plural phrenologies

Medical Definition of phrenology 

: the former study of the conformation of the skull based on the belief that it is indicative of mental faculties and character

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a state of commotion or excitement

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