I know people with an actual fear of olives. Is there a name in English for this phobia?

I have not been able to find anything in the usual websites.

  • 2
    @Josh61 No, I mean really phobic to olives: not being able to be in a room where there are olives.
    – Vicent
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 17:35
  • 2
    @tchrist Maybe yo would like to write it as an answer to my question, and not just as a comment, together with some references for 'eliaphobia'.
    – Vicent
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 17:36
  • 1
    Is there a reason that olives in particular are singled out? (Like what about figs) Is ther a possible rational fear of them like maybe allergies?
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 20:58
  • 1
    @Mitch The reason for my question is that I do know some people with fear of olives, in the sense that they get nervious and worried if there are olives in the table. It is a phobia, not and allergy, as nearly all of those people have never tasted olives. Why not cucumbers, or pineapples...? I do not know, I am just talking about what I have seen and heard.
    – Vicent
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 21:04
  • 1
    Wasn't Popeye's girl friend called Olive Oil? Could it have something to do with a reaction to her, do you think?
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 0:06

2 Answers 2


Elaeophobia or eleophobia

Phobias are productive in English, by which I mean that in English when one wants to describe a specific phobia, one simply identifies the Ancient Greek word corresponding to the thing feared, adjusting as needed to serve as a prefix, and then suffixes ‑phobia to it. This is an open set because people’s fears are unbounded. So all you need to do is figure out what the Greek word for olive is, and there you go.

The answer is that Ancient Greek uses ἐλαία to mean olive — and ἔλαιον for olive oil. This gives a prefix combining form we can use to derive a recognizable technical name for this exotic fear.

According to the OED, there indeed exists a prefix variously transliterated elæo‑, elaeo‑, or eleo‑ which is derived from Greek ἕλαιο‑ν meaning olive oil, and can be used in technical words. Both English and Italian use it in this way, although English is more apt to use the Latin cognate oleo‑. Italian sometimes spells it elaio‑, but English does not appear to do that.

For Greeks and indeed other Mediterranean peoples, olive oil is the default oil they use for everything, and therefore the specific word gets used in a generic way. So just as a water-resistant substance is hydrophobic, an oil-resistant one is eleophobic (apparently the preferred spelling).

Normally then eleo‑ is a prefix meaning oil in general, but drawing on its origin in Greek there is no reason that one cannot also use this word for the specific thing if that’s the sense one wants. Of the three possible spelling variants, the last one is now the most common:

  1. elæophobia, elæophobic
  2. elaeophobia, elaeophobic
  3. eleophobia, eleophobic

However, you might elect the second spelling to help folks think back to the more restricted sense instead of the general one.

  • 2
    Good answer, I'd add that this term is as rare (if it was ever used before) as probably those unfortunate people who are affected by this unusual phobia.
    – user66974
    Commented Sep 9, 2015 at 12:47

The English words for the various "phobias" are simply constructed from Greek roots. This is done as-needed by the psychiatric community.

So the answer to any question of the form "Is there an English word for fear of X", where X has a word for it in Greek is "Yes". The word for it is "Yphobia", where Y is the Greek word for X.

In other words, asking any such question just devolves into asking "What is the Greek word for X?'

  • so ... fearoolive fearoanything! easy!
    – lbf
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 19:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.