I'm a strong swimmer, and I enjoy recreational lap swimming in pools. I enjoy sitting by an outdoor pool on vacation, and swimming to cool off.

But, I detest swimming in natural water (lakes, rivers, oceans, etc.). I will go out of my way to avoid it.

I'm not afraid of doing so. I've never had a traumatic experience. My parents didn't drown. I'm not afraid to go over bridges. I've enjoyed sailing and motor boating. I've even swam in the ocean, lakes, and other bodies of water without incident.

My distaste for it is more based upon the feeling I get while in the water. It is not at all a panicky feeling. It is not fear. I just feel unpleasantly dirty and disgusted. I dislike the feel of stepping on seaweed or mossy bottoms. I hate sand, and particularly wet sand.

Is there a word to describe this level of irrational hatred for something? People always think I'm describing a phobia, but as I've said it's not fear based. I want a word to describe my utter revulsion that carries the same gestalt as phobia but, distaste rather than fear based.

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    ..........sissy Mar 6, 2014 at 21:24
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    I think you are just exaggerating what those suffering from phobias feel. An arachnophobe doesn't necessarily flee screaming from a spider or a picture of one. They might just feel unpleasant and dirty and disgusted when forced to contact one, and avoid it whenever possible.
    – Oldcat
    Mar 6, 2014 at 22:57
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    @oldcat Per the DSM-IV, I wouldn't qualify because I don't experience panic attacks with my trigger. As I've said, I have no dysfunction in the face of it. I can/have swam in natural water, I just detest doing so. Perhaps the DSM-IV is a bit too rigid in their definition, but it's the one I tend to default to in matters of psychology.
    – David M
    Mar 7, 2014 at 0:11
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    Swimming in fresh or salt water repulses me, would also fit.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 7, 2014 at 3:43
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    @DavidM I did not know that skeeve derives from schifare, The expression: "mi fa schifo" is one I have always liked, it's very flexible meaning it gives me disgust, contempt, repulsion, etc. It's a very earthy, and succinct expression. On the other hand, *skeeved me out", I've rarely heard. Maybe it's grown in popularity recently, or it's more common in AmEng than in the UK.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 7, 2014 at 8:00

6 Answers 6


Consider loathe

to feel intense dislike, disgust, or hatred for; abhor; detest

If you need a noun, loathing.


  • abominate
  • abhor
  • execrate
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    +1 for abhor. I think that's actually the right word. I have an abhorrence for swimming in natural water.
    – David M
    Mar 6, 2014 at 22:38

I think the word you need is 'aversion'. It is less severe than phobia, but it is bad enough that professionals offer 'aversion therapy' treatment.

  • Exactly what I was thinking. Mar 6, 2014 at 21:31
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    I think aversion therapy adds aversion rather than getting rid of it.
    – Oldcat
    Mar 6, 2014 at 21:36
  • @Oldcat Depends who's doing it. It is not as straightforward as book-keeping that's for sure.
    – WS2
    Mar 6, 2014 at 21:40
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    Isn't it where you stop something you enjoy by tying it to something you don't. Like "A Clockwork Orange" but without face paint and bowler hats.
    – Oldcat
    Mar 6, 2014 at 21:41
  • This is the word I've used for years, but it still strikes me as not quite right. I think that you may have found the answer for me, though. When I looked up aversion, I found the word abhor. I think this may be a better fit.
    – David M
    Mar 6, 2014 at 22:31

Swimming in fresh or seawater repulses me

would also fit


late Middle English: from Latin repuls- ‘driven back,’ from the verb repellere (see repel).

  • This is an excellent suggestion. It is another word I've used for years, but didn't quite feel strong enough.
    – David M
    Mar 7, 2014 at 4:42
  • On the contrary, it describes very well the feeling of being creeped out by something; it's not a feeling of hate or fear, but describes something that physically makes you disgusted. You are repelled by seawater and fresh water. You could also say "tactile aversion", combining Ws2 and Susan's suggestions.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 7, 2014 at 8:16

On one end I think you have a complex or hang-up. On the severe non-phobia side a neurosis.

  • Possibly, but again, no dysfunction. Just severe distaste. Hang-up is the right track, but not severe enough.
    – David M
    Mar 7, 2014 at 0:47
  • @DavidM - loathe to me doesn't convey that you don't want be around something for at least a semi-irrational reason. Loathe is what you use for a boss you don't like. The things you mentioned are usually pleasant things to most people. If I couldn't talk to girls with red-hair I would say I have a complex or hang-up. I know that I should want to do it. I don't loathe them. Mar 7, 2014 at 1:23
  • I chose bib's answer due to suggesting abhor not loathe. I said that in comments. I agree that loathe is not a good fit.
    – David M
    Mar 7, 2014 at 1:33
  • @DavidM - I don't know abhor is in the same boat with me. I need something that signifies the irrational behavior. I definitely have my complexes and I loathe having them. Mar 7, 2014 at 1:34
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    Abhor is derived from the Latin abhorrere to shudder away from. I think it is a perfect description of my issue with swimming in natural water. Its not something I'm afraid to do, it's something I go out of my way to avoid due to extreme disgust. I could say it skeeves me out, too.
    – David M
    Mar 7, 2014 at 1:40

You could also say "swimming in natural water is anathema to me".

Or "I find swimming in natural water repellent."

Just coincidentally, I'm similar to you. I swim almost every day, but I much prefer pools to open water. I don't like the texture of sand at all. However, I like lakes or rivers for splashing around in, but only if they are really clean and clear.

The only problem is I'm not in love with chlorine, either. After years of exposure to it, it's having some pretty noticeable effects on the inside of my nose.


"revulsion" came immediately to mind -- then i saw u had actually used it in your OP. Still think it's best. Verb "revulses".

btw, years ago, when i used to thoroughly follow bbc.co.uk science & health pages, i read of a correlation between pancreatic cancer and chlorine exposure, including pools. Can't swim now without thinking of it. Tried slathering myself with oil as protection -- only once, awful mess, perhaps because it was vegetable oil. Didn't want to use mineral oil (UK "liquid paraffin") because petroleum products also risk-laden. Furthermore, inhalation exposure remains.

  • Yeah. It's a good word, too. I was just trying to suss out if there was a better one.
    – David M
    Mar 7, 2014 at 17:53
  • Off-topic: Get a private pool with a salt-water treatment system. Mar 7, 2014 at 20:10

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