When I took psychology a semester ago, my teacher insisted that she has never heard of the word. When looked up in Merriam Webster's Dictionary, it did not pop up. Do medical professionals use this term? It is rather weird as I don't think we just intuitively look at something and then have a weird feeling. I only get that weird feeling when looking at a picture that I see from looking up trypophobia. I noticed if I don't explicitly think about it, it does not affect me. Also my computer believes the word does not exist, as it believes "trypophobia" is spelled incorrectly.

  • 1
    If you count psychology researchers as "medical professionals", yes, they use the term in serious, however inconclusive, studies, and your teacher should eat your word. The Wikipedia entry's emphasis on the DSM is misplaced: the DSM is psychiatric, as well as notoriously conservative. Also, the Wikipedia entry seems to have adopted a rather...limited...definition of "scientific literature", since the entry's reference list includes two articles that would usually be considered scientific, both of which implicitly recognize trypophobia as a fit subject for scientific study.
    – JEL
    Aug 19, 2015 at 8:24

2 Answers 2


I think it is a real word, according to Wikipedia:

  • Trypophobia is a claimed pathological fear of objects with irregular patterns of holes. Thousands of people claim to have the condition, but it is not recognized in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) or other scientific literature. The term was coined in 2005 from the Greek τρύπα (trýpa) "hole" and φόβος (phóbos) "fear".
  • 2
    @sumelic, The stem of the feminine noun is "tryp-". The stem is combined variously with -a, -ano, -o. See Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms. It's hard to say why -o in this case, because the choice was likely to have been capricious. A clue might be that the most directly appealing combinative form found in the OED is "trypograph". If not capricious, the choice of -o derives from the genitive plural (-on = "of holes") of the 1st declension.
    – JEL
    Aug 19, 2015 at 7:42
  • I do not think it is a word right now, but perhaps it will catch on in the future. Aug 19, 2015 at 20:20
  • What is a word is more complicated than one might sometimes think. There are tremendous numbers of technical words that are permitted, and are extremely necessary, in their respective fields. Aug 21, 2015 at 3:07

I thought I would just add some additional information about the history and formation of this word.

Useful sources that document the history of the word

The Wikipedia entry Josh mentions cites a Popular Science article by Jennifer Abbasi, "Is Trypophobia a Real Phobia?" (July 25, 2011). Abbasi did some research and said that at the time

  • Trypophobia is not an official phobia recognized in scientific literature. For many (though perhaps not all) who have it, it's probably not even a real phobia, which the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders says must interfere "significantly with the person's normal routine."

  • According to Martin Antony, a psychologist at Ryerson University in Toronto, past-president of the Canadian Psychological Association and author of The Anti-Anxiety Workbook, with the exception of a few terms (agoraphobia, claustrophobia and arachnophobia among them), professionals who study and treat phobias tend not to use all the Latin and Greek names that get tossed around on message boards and in the press.

  • Masai Andrews [...] who runs Trypophobia.com, founded the Facebook group page in 2009 when he was a sociology minor at SUNY-Albany.

  • Surprisingly, [a Wikipedia page for trypophobia] doesn't exist today [i.e. in 2011: there is one now in 2017]. "I can barely keep a page up on the subject without it getting taken down," Andrews says. In March 2009 the powers that be at Wikipedia determined trypophobia to be a "likely hoax and borderline patent nonsense." The deletion page also says that Wikipedia is "not for things made up one day." As for who actually made the word up, that distinction probably belongs to a blogger in Ireland named Louise, Andrews says. According to an archived Geocities page, Louise settled on "trypophobia" (Greek for "boring holes" + "fear") after corresponding with a representative at the Oxford English Dictionary. Louise, Andrews and trypophobia Facebook group members have petitioned the dictionary to include the word. The term will need to be used for years and have multiple petitions and scholarly references before the dictionary accepts it, Andrews says.

Wikipedia says the term was coined in 2005 and references Abbasi, but I can't actually find that information in that source. However, the date does seem to be confirmed in the archived Geocities page that Abbasi mentions and links to, currently accessible at http://web.archive.org/web/20090316071914/http://www.geocities.com/holephobia/trypophobia.html

I will reproduce the relevant post for convenience and in case the link breaks:

Following my letter to the Oxford Word and Language Service on 12th May 2005, I have received a reply from Miss Margot Charlton of Ask Oxford - Oxford English Dictionary. Due to the content of this letter, thank you Miss Charlton for your reply, the name of this phobia is now trypophobia instead of my previously suggested trypaphobia. I quote from Miss Charton's letter below.

"I should perhaps point out that the -a of trypa represents the ending of a Greek feminine noun, and would normally be replaced by -o- in a combination ('trypophobia')."

This was of great interest to me and I am glad that my useage of the Greek was corrected, as my knowledge of Greek is very limited, being almost non-existant. I am now happy that trypophobia is a correctly constructed word.

On the issue of trypophobia being a word accepted into the dictionary, Miss Charlton makes the following comments:

> "...there is nothing to prevent anyone inventing and using a new word, but we do not start considering a dictionary entry untikl we have evidence that it has been in sustained and widespread use for quite some time."

In other words, there is nothing preventing us calling our phobia anything we want! And this is why I have taken it upon myself to officially name this phobia:


23 May 2005

Thanks to the following web pages for their resourses:

I would infer from this that Louise looked up "hole" in the linked English-Greek Dictionary, found that the corresponding Greek word was τρύπα or "trypa", sent a message suggesting that "trypaphobia" be included as an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, and received the response from Margot Charlton saying that dictionary entries are based on evidence of usage, and suggesting the spelling "trypophobia" instead of "trypaphobia".

My somewhat unreliable notes about the formation of the word

JEL obliged a question I asked about the formation of the word with the following useful comment:

@sumelic, The stem of the feminine noun is "tryp-". The stem is combined variously with -a, -ano, -o. See Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms. It's hard to say why -o in this case, because the choice was likely to have been capricious. A clue might be that the most directly appealing combinative form found in the OED is "trypograph". If not capricious, the choice of -o derives from the genitive plural (-on = "of holes") of the 1st declension. – JEL

I am not an expert, but my undestanding is that

  • the oldest Greek compounds show a number of types of connecting vowels, depending in part on the declension of the noun
  • in modern Greek only -o- is used productively to form new compounds
  • in Classical Greek (which was the source of many scientific Latin words) there was sometimes variation between different combining forms due to analogy, or possibly in some cases based on the understood case and number of the first element of the compound (as alluded to by JEL). For example, the Oxford English Dictionary entry on the prefix scio- says it is from

    (i) classical Latin scio- (also scia- ), and its etymon (ii) Hellenistic Greek σκιο-, combining form (in e.g. σκιοθηρικός sciatheric n.) of ancient Greek σκιά shadow ( < the same Indo-European base as Sanskrit chāyā shadow, Middle Persian sāyag shade, shadow, Latvian seja face, (arch.) shadow, (with a suffix) Old Church Slavonic sěnĭ shadow); compare -o- connective.

    A number of Greek words show an earlier form in σκια- and a later form in σκιο-, e.g. Hellenistic Greek σκιαγράϕος (see skiagrapher n.), σκιαμαχία skiamachy n.

However, as I said, my understanding may not be correct or complete. In particular, I have no knowledge of the timing of the transition that I think occurred to using -o- as the only linking vowel; the OED entry on -logy (published 1903) states:

  • As the words of the last-mentioned class have always a n. for their first element, and o is the combining vowel of all declensions of Greek ns., the ending of these compounds is in actual use always -ολογία, becoming -ology comb. form in English.

  • The modern formations in -logy follow the analogy of Greek formations in having o as the combining vowel; exceptions are petralogy (an incorrect form which some writers prefer to petrology because it shows the derivation from πέτρα rock, not from πέτρος stone) and mineralogy (French minéralogie) which may be viewed as a contraction for *mineralology.

I suspect that the author of the -ology entry has slightly over-simplified matters in the first quoted section, considering the existence of genealogy (not mentioned in this entry; the OED entry for genealogy says "late Latin geneālogia, < Greek γενεᾱλογία tracing of descent, < γενεᾱλόγος (whence Latin geneālogus) genealogist, < γενεά race, generation + -λόγος"). But perhaps the judgement of "petralogy" as "incorrect" in the second quoted section can be justified based on some history-based criterion that would also apply to "trypaphobia" (e.g. maybe there is some established principle that "a" instead of "o" as a combining vowel is correct in words that are attested in that form in Greek, but not appropriate/correct for "modern formations" i.e. English neologisms formed in the modern day.)

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