I'm looking for a phobia word for someone who hates listening to speeches because they find them so embarrassing. For example, a bride at a wedding or someone about to receive an award might be embarrassed to hear speeches in their praise, not liking to be in the spotlight. Or a member of the audience might be embarrassed because they find speeches false/formal/sycophantic etc.

Google has lots of hits for fear of public speaking ie giving a speech, but nothing I could find for fear of listening to speeches. I already looked on Wikipedia and Phobialist but could not see anything obvious.

I'm not looking for adjectives such as shy, awkward, unassuming etc, I'm looking for the specific phobia word. If one does not exist, can anyone suggest one? It doesn't have to be suitable for psychology text books, it can be on the lines of 'Monday Morning-phobia'.

  • 9
    filibustophobia? :)
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 20, 2014 at 10:11
  • @DanBron It's a good word but not quite what I'm looking for.
    – Mynamite
    Aug 20, 2014 at 10:18
  • 4
    Some people don't like the concept of using ELU to coin new words. I'm not one of those people: I find it laudable when SWR askers acknowledge that there might not be an atomic, existing word which precisely meets their needs, and so are flexible about answers. In fact, +1 from me for encouraging creative answers.
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 20, 2014 at 10:24
  • I deleted the commentary that relates to this Meta question. I encourage interested parties to participate in the discussion there, and keep it out of comments here.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Aug 20, 2014 at 18:58
  • 1
    if everyone has to look up what any given -phobia means every time you use it - what is the point? i hate the phobia "words". almost all are useless all the time. just say "fear of ____".
    – user428517
    Aug 20, 2014 at 21:59

3 Answers 3


The Greek word for speech being ομιλία (omilia), I would suggest something along the lines of omilophobia.

As aronisstav mentions in his answer, there are good reasons to leave the i in. It means the word refers to fear of speeches (plural) and avoids up to some level confusion with other possible interpretations, like the fear of speaking oneself. The word would then be omiliophobia.

If you want to use a word that is in use already, although it does not seem to be very widespread, there is homilophobia, defined on Definition-Of.com as : a fear of sermons. It also appears in the list on phobialist.com.

The aspiration (the h) has been dropped in modern Greek, and the modern word does not just mean sermon.

Take your pick, with an h or without, with the i or without:

Homilophobia: it exists, it is in use, it derives from classical Greek. One setback is that it is up to now used to mean "fear of sermons" rather than all speeches.

Omilophobia: it is new, it does not derive from classical Greek, but it is close enough to the existing version that it should be understood. It does not just refer to sermons.

Omiliophobia: also not from classical Greek, but grammatically the “cleanest” formation. It specifically refers to hearing speeches, but it also is furthest removed form the existing version.

Some concerns have been raised in the comments and I will try to address them.

How do we distinguish between the fear of giving speeches and the fear of listening to them?

As aronisstav explains, the version omiliophobia would deal with this confusion from a grammatical point of view. Arguably that is not the strongest possible way since very few people will have enough of a grasp of (modern) Greek to appreciate the distinction.

However, there actually is a distinct word for the fear of giving speeches: glossophobia (from The Free Dictionary), which is recognized enough to have a site for sufferers, Glossophobia.com.

Since there are actually two different words for the fears of giving and hearing speeches, the distinction in meaning should be clear.

Credit for the glossophobia addition goes to marantou who posted this as an answer to this question before realising the opposite was asked.

Nobody will recognize the word, it doesn't exist, it is not used or known!

Well, homilophobia actually does exist, in the sense that it is used, there are several sources for it. The two proposed variants without the h are based on modern Greek rather than classical Greek, and indeed they do not exist. However, they are close enough to the existing version that they should be recognizable.

As to the word(s) not being well-known — I think that is quite obvious. If the word were well known, chances are this question would never have been asked. If the most important goal would be for the message to be understood, there would be the simple option of using the description as used in the OP. Rather, the question was for a single word to describe the same.

I would like to encourage those that are convinced a well-known single word should be used for the described fear to post that word as an answer. A suggestion like logophobia has the specific disadvantage that people will recognize it — and ascribe the another meaning to it than what is asked for. It means a fear of words (far removed in meaning from speeches) and I assume some people at least would even make a link to “fear of logic”. I believe it is better to make people look up a word or to have to explain it, than to have them assume they understand it — when they actually understand something you are not trying to convey.

  • 1
    Wasn't sermon "orkos"? In any case, the -phobia words are built with ancient greek, so I'd recommend something in the lines of "logophobia", much more accessible. I'd agree it's less precise, but if no one understands a word, it's completely useless. Aug 20, 2014 at 12:04
  • @oerkelens I'm not sure this conveys what I'm looking for, but my Greek is very rudimentary. 'Omilo' seems to come from 'association' and from there to 'speech [with], debate'. Perhaps this translates more as 'fear of conversing with others'? I'm looking more for the sense of embarrassment some people feel when hearing others make speeches, that cringing feeling when you just can't bear to hear what they're going to say. But thanks for your answer. I certainly wasn't the downvoter.
    – Mynamite
    Aug 20, 2014 at 12:09
  • @oerkelens Fair enough, but writting it without the H would be pedantic at best, also considering that people may not find the actual definition. Aug 20, 2014 at 12:13
  • @oerkelens Please see my comment to Shane's answer. Maybe a composite word of omil[i]ophobia and fremdscham! Though that would be a bit of a mouthful. Phobialist has no mention of embarrassment or shame.
    – Mynamite
    Aug 20, 2014 at 13:43
  • Can you summarize the discussion in the comments in your answer, or do you feel that your edits have covered it?
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Aug 20, 2014 at 19:01

Being Greek, I feel omilo- being more related to the word όμιλος which is another word for a group.

I would therefore keep the 'i' in omiliophobia.

The possible omili-a-phobia is the one that could be related to speech in general. The -io in omilio makes it more different from omilia (ομιλία, singular, could be a speech, but could also refer to speaking in general) and relates it easier with omilies (ομιλίες, which is the plural for speech, but very unlikely to be perceived as ability to speak).

The word omilia is used in Greek for both the general act/ability of speaking and also a particular public speech. Therefore an omiliaphobic can be what you are looking for, but might also be someone afraid of the general ability. In omiliophobic, the "root" omilio sounds more like omilion (ομιλιών), genitive case of the plural omilies. Omilies is far more likely to be used for several public speeches rather than a plural for several abilities to speak.

  • I thought about that (leaving the i in), but since homilophobia has been coined already, recoining it would possibly lead to confusion...
    – oerkelens
    Aug 20, 2014 at 12:55
  • 2
    Maybe one should not forget that ancient-greek-based words are neologism-prone. Let's use the version that makes more sense, whatever the google Ngrams say. Aug 20, 2014 at 13:12

Another, more generic term, for "shame you feel on behalf of somebody else who is making a fool of himself" is the German loanword fremdscham.

  • 2
    I like this for the sense of shame involved. It occurs to me now that I might be looking for 2 different words. One is like fremdscham, the embarrassment which you quite rightly feel at someone else's shameful behaviour. The other is when someone makes a glowing speech singing your praises, all of which is true, but which you are embarrassed to hear because you are a shy and modest person who does not like to be in the spotlight.
    – Mynamite
    Aug 20, 2014 at 13:36

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