Words From Psychology That Are Based on Greek or Latin Roots

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The following words are or have been used in the modern science of psychology: habit, hypnotism, hysteria, extraversion, dyslexia, acrophobic, anorexia, delude, moron, imbecile, schizophrenia, and frustration. They come from either Greek or Latin, but not both, since I have tried to avoid words that combine Greek and Latin, a formation that some refer to as a hybrid classical compound. 

1. Habit comes from the second conjugation Latin verb habeō, habēre, habuī, habitum "to hold, possess, have, handle."

2. Hypnotism comes from the Greek noun ὑπνος "sleep." Hypnos was also the god of sleep. In The Odyssey Book XIV Hera promises Hypnos one of the Graces as a wife in exchange for putting her husband, Zeus, to sleep. People who are hypnotized seem to be in a trance resembling sleep walking.

3. Hysteria comes from the Greek noun ὑστέρα "womb." The idea from the Hippocratic corpus was that hysteria was caused by the wandering of the womb. Needless to say, hysteria was associated with women.

4. Extraversion comes from the Latin for "outside" extra- plus a Latin third conjugation verb meaning "to turn," vertō, vertere, vertī, versum. Extraversion is defined as the act of directing one's interest outside oneself. It is the opposite of Introversion where interest is focused within. Intro- means inside, in Latin.

5. Dyslexia comes from two Greek words, one for "ill" or "bad," δυσ- and one for "word," λέξις.

Dyslexia is a learning disability.

6. Acrophobia is built from two Greek words. The first part is άκρος, the Greek for "top," and the second part is from the Greek φόβος, fear. Acrophobia is a fear of heights.

7. Anorexia, as in anorexia nervosa, is used to describe someone who doesn't eat, but can simply refer to someone with a decreased appetite, as the Greek word would indicate.

Anorexia comes from the Greek for "longing" or "appetite," όρεξη. The beginning of the word "an-" is an alpha privative that simply serves to negate, so instead of longing, there is a lack of longing. Alpha refers to the letter "a," not "an." The "-n-" separates the two vowels. Had the word for appetite begun with a consonant, the alpha privative would have been "a-".

8. Delude comes from the Latin de- meaning "down" or "away from," plus the verb lūdō, lūdere, lūsī, lūsum, meaning play or mimic. Delude means "to deceive." A delusion is a firmly held false belief.

9. Moron used to be a psychological term for someone who was mentally retarded. It comes from the Greek μωρός meaning "foolish" or "dull."

10. Imbecile comes from the Latin imbecillus, meaning weak and referring to physical weakness. In psychological terms, imbecile refers to someone who is mentally weak or retarded.

11. Schizophrenia comes from two Greek words. The first part of the English term comes from the Greek verb σχίζειν, "to split," and the second from φρήν, "mind." It, therefore, means a splitting of the mind but is a complicated mental disorder that is not the same as a split personality. Personality comes from the Latin word for "mask," persona, indicating the character behind the dramatic mask: in other words, "person."

12. Frustration is the final word on this list. It comes from a Latin adverb meaning "in vain": frustra. It refers to the emotion one may have when thwarted.

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