What Is a 'Coulrophobe' So Afraid Of?

Unusual Phobias, Vol. 2
top 10 unusual phobias vol 2 kinesophobia

Definition - Pathological fear of motion

The root of this word is kinein, Greek for “to move.” That same root gives us cinema (moving pictures), kinesthesia (muscle sense), and cholecystokinin (a hormone produced in the mucosa of the upper intestine that stimulates contraction of the gallbladder).

Bermudians still cringe when their way crosses the road-bed of their newfangled little railroad. Motor-trucks terrify them and in passing make them dismount from their bicycles. Therefore, there are no motor-cars in Bermuda for the population is definitely kinesophobic.
—Myron Weiss, Vogue (New York, NY), 1 Apr. 1936

top 10 unusual phobias vol 2 kathisophobia

Definition - Fear of sitting down

Kathisophobia comes from the Greek kathizein (“to sit down”).

Kathizein also developed into a term used in the Eastern Orthodox Church, acathistus (which literally means "standing hymn," because churchgoers stand while they sing it), and gave us the word for a condition characterized by uncontrollable motor restlessness (akathisia).

Our Ruth Reynolds is losing her mind since her discovery of two words, kathisophobia and phronemophobia. Kathisophobia means fear of sitting down, and the other means fear of thinking—and she’s overtaxing her brain trying to devise a combination meaning fear of sitting down to think.
—John Chapman, Daily News (New York, NY), 26 Feb. 1940

top 10 unusual phobias vol 2 aichmophobia

Definition - A morbid fear of sharp or pointed objects (such as a needle or a pointing finger)

At the root of this word lies an iconic pointed object of the ancient world: the Greek aikhmē (“spear" or “javelin”). English has a synonym for this word, belonephobia, from the Greek word for “needle” (belónē).

Not long ago, a New Yorker suffering from aichmophobia—a morbid fear of pointed objects—reacted to the sight of his dentist reaching for a drill by hurling himself through the window.
—Arthur Whitman, The New York Times, 24 Nov. 1963

top 10 unusual phobias vol 2 amaxophobia

Definition - Fear of being in or riding in a vehicle

Amaxophobia comes from the Greek amaxa, meaning “wagon” - which suggests the vehicle that first inspired this fear. In a number of the earliest uses of this word (in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) it referred to the fear of being hit by a carriage; later used assigned the fear to being in such a vehicle, rather than being hit by one.

Agoraphobia can be simulated by the exaggerated fear of carriages, another form of morbid emotivity which arrests the patient when he would traverse a street or a place by the constant fear of being run over. Maguant and Doyen have cited cases of this kind to which Ball proposed to apply the name Amaxophobia.
—Ch. Féré, The Pathology of Emotions (trans. by R. Park), 1899

top 10 unusual phobias vol 2 ailurophobia

Definition - Abnormal fear of cats

This word comes from ailurous, the Greek word for “cat.” Ailurophobes are, it is believed, somewhat outnumbered by ailurophiles, those who love cats.

Ailurophobia runs in families, probably, I think, by dint of imitation and suggestion. Single cases in a family were the general rule.
The Times-Democrat (New Orleans, LA), 10 Jul. 1905

top 10 unusual phobias vol 2 amathophobia

Definition - Fear of dust

The root word for amathophobia is amathos, Greek for ‘sand.” Amathophobes have a low tolerance for the dust bunny a creature whose name - defined by Merriam-Webster simply as "an aggregate of dust" - dates back to at least 1950.

I’ll bet she spots dust bunnies at 30 paces, is allergic to gin drinks, and likes her roast-beef some fussy way between rare and medium and has litters of kittens if it’s not.
The Boston Globe, 11 Jun. 1950

If you leave the room while your wife is sweeping or dusting, you may have “amathophobia,” the fear of dust.
The Austin American (Austin, TX), 2 Nov. 1967

top 10 unusual phobias vol 2 hypengyophobia

What It Is:

Abnormal fear of responsibility

About the Word:

Hypengyos means responsible in Greek.

In English, responsible shares the same root as respond. Someone who is responsible can be trusted to respond - or answer - to his or her duties.

top 10 unusual phobias vol 2 toxiphobia

Definition - Abnormal fear of poisons or of being poisoned

This relatively reasonable-sounding phobia comes from the Latin toxicum, which means “poison.” That same root gave us intoxicate, which originally meant “to poison” (as a verb) or “poisoned” (as an adjective).

Thorugh false engyne & malyce serpentyne
Whan the snake made adam to dyne
Of the appyl that was intoxicate
Falsely with god to make hym at debate.
—John Lydgate, The lyf of our lady, 1484

I propose to apply the term toxiphobia to a species of monomania which is by no means rare, and those laboring under which believe that persistent attempts are being made to poison them. Of the sixty-three toxicophobics, only two were obviously insane; the others were only under one delusion—the apprehension of being poisoned.
—Charles A. Cameron, American Journal of Insanity, Apr. 1876

top 10 unusual phobias vol 2 ochlophobia

Definition - Morbid fear of crowds

The root of this word (ochlos, Greek for “mob”) also gives us ochlocracy, meaning “mob rule.” Those suffering from the more familiar agoraphobia avoid open or public places (the ancient Greece marketplace was the agora).

The Easter Trip of Two Ochlophobists. By One of Themselves.
Blackwood’s Edinburgh magazine, Jul. 1867

top 10 unusual phobias vol 2 ideophobia

Definition - Fear or distrust of ideas or of reason

Although the combining forms ideo- and idio- look and sound quite similar, they have meanings that are quite distinct. Idio- comes from the Greek idios (“one's own, private”), and has meanings such as “one's own,” “personal,” or “separate.” We find it in words such as idiosyncrasy (“an individualizing characteristic or quality”). Ideo- may be traced to the Greek verb idein, meaning “to see,” and is found in words such as ideophobia and ideology (“a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture”).

He is two men—an intelligent well-meaning man as Alexander; a repressive despot as a Czar. His good sense, his right feeling, and his intelligence, he owes to the times in which he lives. His egotism, his narrow-mindedness, his ideophobia, he inherits, with his instincts, from his ancestors.
The London Review, 19 Oct. 1861

gerund phobia is real

Definition - abnormal fear of clowns

We are sure that some of those reading this have seen the above definition and reasoned ‘the existence of an abnormal fear of clowns means that there of necessity must also be a normal fear of clowns.’

After yesterday's Short Round about Australian phobias, Pancho, of Dapto, rang to tell me he was one of the unfortunate sufferers of coulrophobia. Pancho says has had an irrational fear of clowns ever since his mother-in-law ran off with a circus performer three years ago.
—Jodi Allen, Illawarra Mercury (Wollongong, NSW, Aus.), 15 Jan. 1999


Definition - pathological fear of tuberculosis

One certain occasions it is necessary to have at hand a phobia that is difficult to pronounce and even more difficult to spell. Don’t ask us what occasions these might be, for we are forbidden to tell you. What we can say is that this word is pronounced much as tizzy-a-phobia would be, were that a word. Do not attempt to rhyme phthisiophobia with other words, for if you do poetic train wrecks will ensue (see below).

There have been some tubercular scares
Resulting from morbific airs;
Recent symposia
On phthisiophobia
Have all been consumptive affairs.


Don't be scared to answer these questions about famous phobias.