Is there a word for "the fear of being grammatically incorrect"? If not, then what's a good way to describe such a situation?


A: I noticed you were quiet during the talk. Why was that?
B: I (have / am, ...) ______, so I didn't speak.

  • 4
    No, there is no such word. Why would there be? You already explained the situation with sufficient adequacy. That’s like asking what the word is for “already having explained the situation with sufficient adequacy”. Language is about stringing words together to form concepts: it is not a Scrabble game!
    – tchrist
    May 3, 2014 at 20:45
  • @tchrist It does feel redundant. An aphasiagrammataphobia? May 3, 2014 at 21:07
  • 2
    Nervous Cluelessness is what they call it on Language Log. May 3, 2014 at 22:43

8 Answers 8


There is a fairly new term called grammar anxiety which is mainly used in academic sources and publications. Though it can be seen in native speakers, it is usually associated with second-language acquisition and foreign language anxiety.

From the book "Navigating English Grammar: A Guide to Analyzing Real Language" By Anne Lobeck, Kristin Denham":

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An extreme case might be observed in people who suffers from atelophobia. It is an anxiety disorder which is the fear of not being good enough or imperfection. Atelophobics usually have the fear of making a mistake in front of others and they show extreme disappointment if they fail at something.

  • I could imagine myself admitting to having grammar anxiety (actually I do whenever I post a question or an answer on EL&U!). But I wouldn't class it as a fear of being imperfect or less than perfect. But a fear of being criticized, or making a faux pas in public. I wonder if there is a phobia of being criticized. Edit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avoidant_personality_disorder
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 5, 2014 at 7:15

This gets rolled up into glossophobia which is the fear of speaking in general. There are tons of reasons to fear speaking and grammar would be a subset.

  • Loved your last comment (pity it's been deleted): "I also have a fear of sourcing websites ran by some 40 year old guy living in his parent's basement".
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 5, 2014 at 7:10
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA - I think I lead the ELU in deleted comments! May 5, 2014 at 8:26

In that particular context I would suggest using performance anxiety.

While not specifically relating to 'fear of using incorrect grammar', it does refer to the 'fear of doing something in front of a group of people.'


Personally, I would recommend either: "I was afraid I would misspeak so I did not answer."

Or, more precisely: "I was afraid of making a syntax error, so I refrained from speaking."


there is no such specific word but here is a word that you can use in that context:

Atychiphobia - fear of failure.


I had read somewhere that "kakosbibliophobia" was "a fear of bad grammar". Is this incorrect, or is it a synonym?

  • 1
    Please don't post new questions as answers to other questions. You can use the "Ask Question" button on the homepage to create a new question and you can link to this question for context. Feb 9, 2022 at 15:50
  • When it doesn't even appear in a Google search, it's highly unlikely to have been accepted into the lexicon. Feb 9, 2022 at 15:53
  • This answer would be better if it had a supporting definition from a dictionary or an attributed quote showing the use of "kakosbibliophobia" in the wild.
    – Conrado
    Feb 9, 2022 at 18:49

There is Dysgrammatophobia – The fear of producing bad grammar.

Other fears related to grammar:
Ortographobia – The fear of misspelling words
Pistaphobia – Fear of periods. Sometimes used to represent the fear of all punctuation.
Erotimatikophobia – the fear of question marks.
Graphophobia - Fear of writing or handwriting.
Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia - Fear of long words.


If none suffice, just wait a while and one may show up.


onomatophobia or nomatophobia is the irrational fear of hearing a particular word or name. but it is not specifically for the anxiety caused with grammatical incorrectness

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