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If a phobia is to have an irrational fear of something, what is the word for having an irrational affinity for something?

For example a numerologist may fear the number 13, but be attracted to (or even have a love for) the number 8. (Some would say this is irrational.)

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The opposite of the -phobia suffix is -philia. If our numerologist actually liked 13, rather than feared it, he'd be a triskaidekaphiliac –  FumbleFingers Nov 7 '11 at 3:51
The concept of antonyms assumes there is only two options, Which in reality it's often not (even if humans tend to think that way). For most stuff people has phobias about, you can be indifferent, like it, obsess about it etc. What is the antonym for "red"? –  Stein G. Strindhaug Nov 7 '11 at 13:46
I think Mania would also suffice. –  Shwetabh Shekhar Jul 19 at 11:40

3 Answers 3

As @FumbleFingers points out, the -phil- suffixes are the closest opposites you'll find:

Suffixes with the common part -phil- (-phile, -philia, -philic) are used to specify some kind of attraction or affinity to something, in particular the love or obsession with something. They are antonymic to suffixes -phob-.

However, in many cases, we tend to think of passions as a positive thing, so I'm not sure these are the antonyms you're looking for. For example, if I describe myself as a technophile, you might think that I am forward-thinking (and it would be the technophobe who might be condemned); if I'm an oenophile, I'm merely sophisticated; if I'm a bibliophile, just educated.

As an alternative, you might consider the -mania suffix, which "denotes an obsession with something". This would more closely fit the meaning you're looking for of an irrational attraction.

For example, bibliophilia is sometimes contrasted with bibliomania, where the former is "the usual love of books" but the latter is

a symptom of obsessive–compulsive disorder which involves the collecting or even hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged.

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+1 for "-mania", it captures the "irrational" part quite well. –  Joachim Sauer Nov 7 '11 at 7:17
For example, hydrophobic vs. hydrophilic molecules –  Itamar Nov 7 '11 at 12:09
Not wanting to disagree that "-mania" is apt to discribe an irrational obsession, but I just wanted to point out that the "-phile" suffix is not always used in a positive sense and is often used to describe an unusual or deviant sexual desire. For example, "paedophile", "necrophile", to name but two. –  Matt Nov 7 '11 at 12:11

Although courage and bravery are the perfect antonyms to fear, it seems you wish to capture the irrational nature of a phobia, for which I think there is no perfect antonym. If you want to be specific, I think you should say explicitly that the affinity is irrational. Otherwise desire, lust or crave may do.

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I think this is a loaded question, as it contains a controversial assumption. I don't agree with what you say that an attraction or love is the opposite of phobia.

As you yourself properly noted, phobia is a fear of something. The opposite of being afraid of something is being brave towards it, which is defined as bravery or courageousness, which in my opinion both are proper antonyms of phobia.

Now whether courage is rational or not is very difficult to distinguish and it raises a few philosophical questions, which aren't fit for this place, but all in all it's safe to assume that if the following is true:

The man who entered the building on fire and rescued the unconscious woman must have been extremely brave!

Then bravery is irrational, as going toward fire (danger) is not rational at all. It can be considered stupid, irrational decision and if one did that trying to save someone, but dying instead, their actions could easily be considered stupid, irrational.

Therefore I believe it's safe to say that an antonym of phobia is courage.

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I see your point, but "love for" and "fear of" are as close to opposites of one another as I can think of. I would argue that the opposite of bravery toward something, is cowardice toward it. And fear of something does not necessarily imply cowardice towards it. –  tjm Nov 7 '11 at 4:08
I definitely don't consider myself the greatest thinker alive, therefore I will neither argue, nor further defend my opinion. Let's see what others think by waiting for their votes, shall we? –  RiMMER Nov 7 '11 at 4:15
Errm Ok! Sorry, I didn't mean to start an argument. Just to simply clarify my opinion. If I've got the wrong end of the stick I apologise, and just read this as, "Yes, let's do that", but I got the impression I'd offended you. (Damn not being able to adequately convey sentiment through typing!) –  tjm Nov 7 '11 at 4:24
Haha no man, don't worry, you didn't offend me! I myself don't know what the perfect answer to your question is, that's why I wanted to leave the decision to others ;) –  RiMMER Nov 7 '11 at 4:28
There are two arguments that justify the question 1) etymology phobia - aversion; philia - affection, which are closer to antonyms 2) the suffixes are indeed used like this - compare hydrophile and hydrophobe, and as suffixes they can be considered antonyms. Also if you take a def of phobia as "a very strong feeling of disliking or being afraid of someone or something", then certainly the antonym in the sense of "a very strong feeling of liking" is justified. –  Unreason Nov 7 '11 at 9:35

protected by tchrist Jul 19 at 12:21

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