Is there a way to express in one word when people attach their personal feelings to a concept or an idea and then become very vehement at defending it because they consider it personal criticism.

As they inject their own semantics and attribute whatever they want to the word. so if you criticize the label or what you think the label refers to, you criticize their instance of the label.

In some way they become emotionally attached to the concept but how to say it in one word ?

Object Oriented Programming is a good example of concept (is it even one ?) where people attach their feelings to it and then feel personally attacked when criticism arises.

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    I'll not put it as an answer as I can only find limited examples on the internet, none in dictionaries. The noun proprietorialness from the adjective proprietorial: If your behaviour is proprietorial, you are behaving in a proud way because you are, or feel like you are, the owner of something. [Collins Reverso Dictionary] Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 6:34
  • In programming circles, we sometmes describe someone as being "precious" about their code. This usually applies when they've written something and take any suggestions/criticisms of the code as personal attacks.
    – Basic
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 9:59
  • Note that it's also very easy (and common) to attack both an idea or concept and the person believing in it at the same time, making them fully justified in considering it personal criticism (to use your example: "object oriented programming was invented by and for people too stupid to understand functional programming") Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 13:12
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    In general something like sentimentalism would work for sentiments getting mixed up with things that would or should normally be emotionally neutral, but the specific example sounds more like fanboys - people treating their support of a product or concept like a tribal identity (note fanboys aren't necessarily male). Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 15:13
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    I'd call it "overinvested" though definitions I could find of the word seem to be only in the context of finance, but I've certainly heard others use the word in an emotional sense. That is, they have "invested" so much emotion into something, that they do not want to change it, or hear criticisms about it.
    – user65692
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 22:48

13 Answers 13


You could use the word zealot:

zealot: a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals.

If I said someone was an Object Oriented Programming zealot, you would expect them to be very defensive in the face of perceived attacks on or disagreement with OOP principles.

I feel this word captures the essence of the behaviour you describe but without being as specific about the personal identification reasons for the behaviour as you are in your question.


Possible related words include (slightly less pejorative) fanatic or (more hyperbole) militant.

For example, I would go along with being described as a Haskell fanatic or a maths fanatic, but would feel over-criticised if you called me a zealot. I would feel you were being very unfair indeed to describe me as militant! There is a fanatic badge on Stack Exchange (for visiting a site for 100 consecutive days) but there's no zealot badge, as badge names are deliberately chosen to be positive.


Interestingly zealot has negative connotations, whereas the root form, zeal, does not:

zeal: great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective.

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    I came here to suggest zealot. Also crusader or champion.
    – Preston
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 20:27
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    Zealot and fanatic are excellent suggestions for the people the OP describes.
    – Doc
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 21:17
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    Yep zealot is good, it has the fanatical uncompromising part applied to their "personal" ideals. That's pretty good, Thanks
    – Marc
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 23:48
  • Crusader, champion and also evangelist are all good options if you want something less pejorative Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 13:25
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    Zealot works better for me than ideologue because the deeply held conviction needn't be based in much of an idea: for instance, Coke vs Pepsi and some of the examples in the previous comment, but not MY favorite, of course. ;-) Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 13:18

I think ideologue fits the bill here. It is essentially someone who is wholly committed to a certain philosophy, concept or ideal.

ideologue: an adherent of an ideology, especially one who is uncompromising and dogmatic.

  • Well found - I like the fact that it's a noun, so it's something you can call someone as per the question, and the dogmatism strikes the right tone.
    – AndrewC
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 20:19

One word to call people that attach their feelings to a concept: cathectic

Cathect verb (used with object) Psychoanalysis. to invest emotion or feeling in (an idea, object, or another person).

  • This is really great, thank you! This is an excellent word for describing one of the components of the process.
    – bitemyapp
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 9:35

The mentality you've described is an example of chauvinism:

1.Exaggerated or aggressive patriotism.

1.1 Excessive or prejudiced support for one’s own cause, group, or sex.

A chauvinist will typically be sentimentally/emotionally invested in whichever ideology they subscribe to, and will often react aggressively if challenged on the issue.

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    Personally, I feel that chauvinism (at least in American English) is strongly associated with male chauvinism specifically, and might therefore have undesirable connotations in other contexts.
    – Trying
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 17:38
  • I like this answer, but I agree with @JakeP that in general conversation, people are likely to be confused due to the association with male chauvinism.
    – Doc
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 21:16

To appropriate an idea is to claim it as one's own: to take to or for oneself; take possession of.

  • Somewhere along the way, you appropriated the idea that you were not good enough as is, and so you tried to become something else.
  • Unfortunately, the[y] appropriated the idea that political power backed up by force and violence was the only way to overthrow the existing order.

This might be overly simple, but people become defensive about ideas in which they have invested:

To devote morally or psychologically, as to a purpose; committed.

When someone becomes invested or committed to an idea, or when they buy into an idea, they psychologically endow it with authority or power over them. Therefore when someone attacks the idea, they react as if you are attacking them.

  • Invested is a good word for this. Appropriate seems to miss slightly for me, because it's more about changing the meaning and less about being emotionally invested in something.
    – Magus
    Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 17:37
  • @Magus I was the originator of the question and appropriate is much closer than the other answers so far.
    – bitemyapp
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 3:33

Fanboy is the word that fits best.


I think the phrase we use in the working world is "[their] baby". Signifying that they are attached to a plan, idea, product, whatever like they gave birth to it.


Why did John get all upset when we started talking about getting a vendor solution for our new corporate website?

Well his team has been working on the new beta site for 2 years and it is his baby.

And what do mothers/fathers do with their baby? They cling to it with emotional prejudice.

: hold on tightly or tenaciously


In three words, they are taking it personally because they internalize the idea.


egolessness as a consequence of pragmatist philosophy.

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    Is something missing from the start of this answer? It appears to be the tail end of a sentence.
    – Senex
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 7:24

Though an uncommon term I think proprietariness suggests the idea of excessive attachment to someone or something as if they were your own property, (sexual proprietariness). So I'd call them self proclaimed 'proprietors' with that meaning.

The state of pertaining to, belonging to, or being a proprietor.


adjective: subjective

based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.
"his views are highly subjective"

Maybe this doesn't quite answer the question ... but I think of people who take things personally as being subjective, not objective.


You never specified whether you were looking for a noun or a verb with which to express this.

To offend or to become offended would be what you are looking for, assuming you were looking for a verb.

Furthermore, a person can also take something personal

Don't take it personal, but your breath stinks

Don't be offended, but are you Mexican?

A more courteous approach would be

No offense, but are you Mexican?


You can say that someone is (overly) sentimental about the entity in question.

Specifically, aspects:

Resulting from or colored by emotion rather than reason or realism.


Tending to indulge the emotions excessively.

They are manifesting responses to critique of the entity as if it is they that is criticised. This is an emotional rather than rational response.

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