Is there a word for the (probably irrational) fear of learning something new and maybe forgetting something you already know?1

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    "Brain overflow" -- it's a constant hassle for me (and the fear is perfectly rational).
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 5, 2016 at 1:06
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    I should call it the Holmes fallacy after the passage in Chapter II of Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet in which Watson discovers Holmes to be ignorant of the Copernican or heliocentric theory of what we now call the solar system. Commented May 5, 2016 at 1:08
  • I know this happened in the BBC show with Benedict Cumberbatch, but this did really happen in the original literature?! That's crazy! Commented May 5, 2016 at 1:28

1 Answer 1


The word I suggest covers more territory than the narrow sense you mention. It doesn't touch directly on the sense of "and maybe forgetting something you already know", although that is a component of the fear commonly expressed by those who suffer from it. The word has been in use for 130 years, at least:

neophobia n.
A tendency to dislike anything new; fear of novelty.

(Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014. S.v. "neophobia." Retrieved May 5 2016 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/neophobia )

A very similar term, rarer in use than 'neophobia' but as longlived, is this borrowing from Italian:

mis·o·ne·ism n.
Hatred or fear of change or innovation.

(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. S.v. "misoneism." Retrieved May 5 2016 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/misoneism )

For your narrower sense, but omitting "something new", which seems redundant when used to refer to things to be learned, a technical term from medicine works. As with the broader terms 'neophobia' and 'misoneism', the word for the specific phobia doesn't encompass the "and maybe forgetting something you already know" dimension:

Morbid fear of learning.

(Segen's Medical Dictionary. S.v. "sophophobia." Retrieved May 5 2016 from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/sophophobia )

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