The Grammarphobia Blog

A phobia you won’t find in the PDR

Q: I was reading Bob Cesca on the Huffington Post the other day when he referred to “the increasingly regional, homogenized, sophophobic GOP.” I checked the Oxford English Dictionary and didn’t find the word “sophophobic,” though I’m sure the meaning is obvious to you. Can you enlighten me?

A: “Sophophobia” is a fear of learning or knowledge, so someone with this phobia is “sophophobic” or a “sophophobe.”

You won’t find any of these words in the OED. Or in the Physicians Desk Reference, either. They’re inventions, based on the Greek roots sophos (wise or clever) and phobos (fear).

We can’t tell you when or where they first cropped up, but one of them is at least a couple of decades old.

“Sophophobia” (defined as “intense fear of knowledge or of learning”) appears in a glossary in Robertson’s Words for a Modern Age: A Cross Reference of Latin and Greek Combining Elements (1991).

John G. Robertson, who compiled and edited the work, also includes the word in a later book of lists, An Excess of Phobias and Manias (2003).

Of all these phobias (not to mention manias), we especially like “sophophobia” because of the quirky letter combination “phopho” in the middle! 

Check out our books about the English language