This will have to be an imperfect premise, given my memory is a bit hazy on the details. What I recall is some PhD was talking about interesting words that came from Greek, one of which meant "to break the mind". I'm certain about that part. Where things get murky for me is the exact spelling. Though I'm fairly sure I'm not all that far off, as I tried to say the word a bunch of times after he explained it so that it would stick with me:


Though when I query this on the web, I get zero results, which is quite odd. Maybe this means I'm not even close. I reckon we can give this guy the benefit of the doubt, he seemed to know his stuff (as in it's likely not a neologism or some fictional word).

I then tried breaking the word into parts, I thought I was on the right trail when I found that the prefix "phreno" means "mind" (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/phreno-)

The trail went cold from there, I couldn't find any suffix that fit the meaning "to break/shut down/shatter".

Edit To clarify as best I can, "phrenoblaptic" / "mind-breaking" should mean mind bending or mind alteration taken to an extreme as opposed to a a priori mental disorder.

After getting my hands dirty with a ancient Greek lexicon that is way over my head, I think I've found both parts of the root:


metaph., harm the mind., infatuate; τὸν δέ τις α?θανάτων βλἁψε φρένας

Which seems to confer that there is a collocation between "phreno" and "blappo" but I couldn't find them conglomerated into one word.

  • The suffix "-clast" means breaking down, in osteoclast, pyroclastic, etc. But I couldn't find a hit for phrenoclast(ic). Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 7:14
  • 1
    Just to understand better, is "break the mind" akin to mind-bending/mind-altering or is this a word from the Greek that implies something more serious, such as permanent damage?
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 14:04
  • 1
    Do you know anything else about the word, like what exactly "breaking the mind" means (not a common English phrase as far as I know)? Are we talking brainwashing, rendering imbecilic, destroying someone's will...?
    – Stuart F
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 16:17
  • As an alternative to phreno-, the prefix phront- refers to thought, as in phrontistery.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 16:19
  • 1
    schizophrenic = split + mind... But that sounds like a mental disorder — not what you're looking for? Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 2:46

1 Answer 1


Phrenoblabia is a word that fits the details. It is an obsolete name for dementia, which is a condition characterized by loss of mental functions.

An obsolete term for dementia.


It is formed as phreno- (ϕρενο-, combining form of ϕρεν-, ϕρήν mind) + blab- (βλαβ-, the stem of *βλάπτω 'bláptō'; “to harm”) + -ia (-ία suffix denoting conditions/diseases in medicine).

Ancient Greek had a similar word containing phren(o) (φρενο) and blab (βλαβ) roots meaning "crazy" per lsj.gr, an Ancient Greek-English dictionary:

φρενοβλαβές, (βλάπτω) deranged, crazy,
Hdt.2.120, Eup.181.7, Luc.Syr.D.43, Hierocl.in CA 24p.472M., etc.

A dictionary of psychological medicine from 1892 have an entry for both phrenoblabes and phrenoblabia as below:

PHRENOBLABES (ϕρενο, the mind; βλάπτω, I damage). Damaged or impaired understanding. (Fr. phrenoblabe; Ger. am Verstande beschädigt.)

PHRENOBLABIA. - A lesion of the intellect. (See PHRENOBLABES.)

A Dictionary of psychological medicine giving the definition, etymology and synonyms of the terms used in medical psychology, with the symptoms, treatment, and pathology of insanity and the law of lunacy in Great Britain and Ireland by Tuke, Daniel Hack

Another option from Ancient Greek is φρενοδαλές (phrenodalēs) which is closer in meaning per lsj.gr:

φρενοδαλές, (δηλέομαι) ruining the mind, παραφορά A.Eu.330 (lyr.).

OED doesn't list phrenoblabia but lists an obsolete rare word similar in meaning:


Loss of (normal) mental function.
Apparently only attested in dictionaries or glossaries.

OED has this note in the etymology of phrenoplegy:

Compare Hellenistic Greek ϕρενοπληγ-, ϕρενοπλήξ stricken in mind; R. G. Mayne (see quot. 1858) gives also a Latin form phrenoplegia.

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.