Some may fear this word

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A Language Log reader named metanea points out to us that the Urban Dictionary claims aibohphobia is a technical term for the irrational fear of palindromicity. The etymology will raise a smile. Just stare at the word for a few seconds, and it will reveal itself to you.


  1. Stan said,

    March 28, 2010 @ 3:18 pm

    Luckily, aibohphobia is curable.

  2. metanea said,

    March 28, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

    Thank you very much for the credit Geoff.

    I blogged this as "Language news – aibhohphobia: proof that ailihphiliacs are sadists".

    @Stan great find!

  3. Rubrick said,

    March 28, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

    I immediately assumed it was fear of cute robotic dogs.

    Now, what's fear of italics?

  4. mike said,

    March 28, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

    I saw the word "aibophobia" and assumed that it was fear of robotic dogs.

  5. Goplat said,

    March 28, 2010 @ 6:10 pm

    "Aibohphobia" just looks wrong: Greek doesn't have an "h"; it has theta (th), phi (ph), and chi (ch/kh), but nothing that transliterates to just h.

  6. Ray Girvan said,

    March 28, 2010 @ 6:28 pm

    A quick Google suggests the coiner of this to be Stan Kelly-Bootle: the first findable occurrence is in his Devil's DP Dictionary, the 1981 precursor of the citation Stan gave above. Around the same time, a New York Magazine contributor offered an alternative: ainpapnia.

  7. Sky Onosson said,

    March 28, 2010 @ 6:43 pm

    I didn't think there was anything worse than a bad pun. Until now.

  8. MattF said,

    March 28, 2010 @ 8:35 pm

    And, don't forget that a semordnilap is a word that means something different when spelled backwards.

  9. Jenno said,

    March 28, 2010 @ 8:55 pm

    First thing that popped into my mind was taebophobia, fear of martial arts masqerading as exercise.

  10. Gordon Campbell said,

    March 28, 2010 @ 9:58 pm


  11. Army1987 said,

    March 29, 2010 @ 8:35 am

    who coined that? Hofstadter?

  12. Michael said,

    March 29, 2010 @ 9:27 am

    Able was I ere I saw aibohphobia

  13. Dan Lufkin said,

    March 29, 2010 @ 11:14 am

    Over-treating aibohphobia sometimes induces ailihphilia, a frank presentation of which is seen at

  14. Karl Weber said,

    March 29, 2010 @ 1:24 pm

    This word is a rather cruel joke, since it would prevent sufferers from aibohphobia from seeking treatment (being unable to mention their ailment). Rather like having a clinic specializing in acrophobia located on the 85th floor of the Empire State Building.

  15. Ian Duncan said,

    March 29, 2010 @ 9:59 pm

    Let's not forget hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. That is, fear of long words.

  16. Simon Cauchi said,

    March 30, 2010 @ 12:37 am

    I've always thought it a shame that TOYOTA doesn't begin with an A. If it did, the palindrome would read the same whether you looked at the word directly or in your rear vision mirror.

  17. Troy S. said,

    March 30, 2010 @ 1:12 pm

    @Goplat I agree it does look wrong, but the rough breathing at the beginning of words is often transliterated by itself as h.

  18. Alex said,

    March 31, 2010 @ 10:06 am

    @Simon Cauchi: If only they would adapt the slogan "A TOYOTA'S A TOYOTA"

    (that's stolen, by the way, from Weird Al's excellent Song "Bob" ( which should freak out aibohphobes no end)

  19. Kay said,

    July 11, 2011 @ 8:54 am

    Correction : Goplat.
    Greek does have an 'h' which in translation is used as an 'i'. The word Aibohphobia is derived from the Greek "phobia/φοβια" meaning 'fear' and 'aiboh/αιβοη' meaning 'unaided' 'unhelped' 'helpless' etc.

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