Printable Version
Pronunciation: ji-lat-ê-fo-bi-ê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: No, this word doesn't mean "fear of jello" (or any other gelatin); that would be gelatophobia, with an A in place of the O. Gelotophobia means "fear of being laughed at". This fear may be a serious social anxiety disorder or just what it means.

Notes: "Another phobia?" I hear you asking already. We all have mild gelotophobia, but in some people it goes too far and becomes a social anxiety disorder. The adjective for this word is gelotophobic or gelotophobical. Someone who doesn't like to be laughed at is a gelotophobe. I personally suffer from just the opposite: gelotophilia "the love of being laughed at".

In Play: Anyone who takes offence at being laughed about can now be called gelotophobic: "That humorless grump suffers from major gelotophobia." That grump is a gelotophobe; so is this president: "Don't let the president hear your jokes about him; he is seriously gelotophobic."

Word History: This word was compounded out of two Greek words, gelos, gelot- "laughter" + phobos "fear" + -ia, a noun suffix. Gelos comes from the PIE root ghel-/ghol- "to joke, be joyful", the same source provided English glee. Latin seems to have lost the L in its gaudere "to rejoice", as in gaudeamus igitur "so let us rejoice". Phobia comes from PIE bhegw- "to run", source also of Lithuanian bėgti "to run, flee" and Russian begat' "to run, flee". It also became bakjaz "stream" in Old Germanic. That word in Modern German is Bach. (Let's all now thank Rob Towart for rescuing this word from the narrow vocabulary of psychology.)

Dr. Goodword,

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