General Question

stanleybmanly's avatar

Does anyone know the origins of the curious word xenophobia?

Asked by stanleybmanly (22374points) June 12th, 2015 from iPhone

I’m wondering if it has anything to do with Xenophon and his 10,000 Greeks stranded amidst the “barbarians” at the conclusion of the Persian war.

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11 Answers

LostInParadise's avatar

According to the dictionary, it comes from the Greek words xeno, meaning strange or foreigner plus phobia. The date for the origin is given as around 1884, when it was used to be synonymous with agoraphobia and its current usage date is given as 1903. Link
It must have been the creation of some academic. Who else would create a word with xeno in it?

stanleybmanly's avatar

Isn’t it curious that Xenophon just happened to be known for writing an account of being isolated in the midst of strange people, and 2400 years later, a word describing his resulting paranoia is coined spelled almost literally the same as his name, yet otherwise completely irrelevant of him or his plight?

dappled_leaves's avatar

@stanleybmanly Well, that’s probably no coincidence. He may have been given that name because of the story.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Well I’m fairly certain that he had the name before the adventure.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Note that “Xenophon” means “foreign voice” (xenos + phonos), whereas “xenophobia” means “foreign fear” (xenos + phobos). So while the words share a lot of letters, they only share one root.

morphail's avatar

Is Xenophon’s name really from xenos + phōnē? It’s possible but it’s a weird name and I haven’t seen any evidence.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@morphail I am neither a linguist nor a classicist, but that is what both of my ancient Greek professors told me when I was learning the language (as well as one of my ancient philosophy professors when we were reading one of Xenophon’s works).

And for whatever little it’s worth, a quick Google search corroborates the ξενος + φωνη derivation.

Darth_Algar's avatar

It’s entirely possible that Xenophon was given that name later, after his adventures, and that his previous name is not recorded. Especially considering that much of what we know about Xenophon’s life comes from Xenophon himself, writing about his adventures.

Strauss's avatar

It’s also possible that Xenophon used his “Strange Sound” as a nom de plume so he could speak with a strange voice.

Darth_Algar's avatar


Yeah, I wonder if “Xenophon” wasn’t simply a pen name taken up by the man himself for dramatic/artistic purposes.

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