• agoraphobia •
æ-go-rê-fo-bee-yê • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: Fear of open spaces (or agoras).
Notes: Today's Good Word can also be found among our Glossary of Phobias, where you can peruse other things to be afraid of, too. The adjective for today's word is agoraphobic and you are welcome to use it as a noun, too. The antonym of this word is agoraphilia "the love of open spaces" and someone possessed of this attitude is an agoraphile.
In Play: Although this word is usually applied by the medical profession to a serious mental disorder, we do find instances where it applies in the world of the ordinary: "Isn't it odd that Randolph gets agoraphobia every spring when the grass begins to grow again?" We hope agoraphobia does not prevent your chatting about words with the web-footed logophiles in the Alpha Agora
Word History: Today's Good Word is made up of two Greek words, agora "market place" and phob-os "fear" + the noun suffix -ia. Agora comes from a root, ger-/gre- meaning "to gather together". If we reduplicate the G, we get greg-, the Latin stem that underlies the English borrowings congregate, segregate, and gregarious. Phobos, believe it or not, comes from an old root bheg- "to run", which Russian retained without much change in beg-at' "to run". The verb from the Greek noun is phebesthai "to flee in terror", which reveals the connection between "run" and "fear". (Now it is time to fearlessly thank Jan Arps for suggesting today's Good Word. She lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, where the first civil rights sit-in took place on February 1, 1960.)
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