Real Spellers

English Makes Sense!

One of my students, asked fantastic questions about <phobia> the other day -  

What’s the base? 

Is it phobi + a à phobia

Is <-a> a suffix? 

And is <phobic> phobi + c à phobic

Is <-c> a suffix?

Let’s see what we can discover when we follow the Structured Word Inquiry process, which is, MEANING, BUILT, RELATIVES and PRONUNCIATION

MEANING – I think phobia has something to do with being very scared, frightened or fearful of something.  It could be something obvious like being extremely scared of the dark or a less obvious phobia, such as having a huge fear of jelly or pigeons!  Let’s take a look at etymology on line…             

phobia (n.) Look up phobia at
"irrational fear, horror, aversion," 1786, perhaps on model of similar use in French, abstracted from compounds in -phobia, from Greek -phobia, from phobos "fear, panic fear, terror, outward show of fear; object of fear or terror," originally "flight" (still the only sense in Homer), but it became the common word for "fear" via the notion of "panic, fright" (cf. phobein "put to flight, frighten"), from PIE root *bhegw- "to run" (cf. Lithuanian begu "to flee;" Old Church Slavonic begu "flight," bezati "to flee, run;" Old Norse bekkr "a stream"). Psychological sense attested by 1895.
-phobia Look up -phobia at
word-forming element meaning "excessive or irrational fear of," from Latin -phobia and directly from Greek -phobia "panic fear of," from phobos "fear" (see phobia). In widespread popular use with native words from c.1800. Related: -phobic.

I see FEAR, PANIC and TERROR.  And sometimes people can have a severe  or inordinate fear of something that cannot hurt them, hence, irrational.

I can see that <-phobia> can also be placed at the end of words, for example, <arachnophobia> a fear of spiders.

How it is BUILT - <phobia> Greek origin.  Etymology online says <phobia>, is from <phobos>This makes me think that the base maybe <phob> because <phob> is the common structure in <phobos>, <phobia> and <phobic>. 

Now I need to check if <-ia> and <-ic> are suffixes and while I’m at it I can check my student's hypotheses –are <-a> and <-c> suffixes?  I will go to the dictionary and check now…

-a1 a plural ending of nouns borrowed from Greek and Latin: phenomena; criteria; data; errata; genera. '); Unabridged

-a2 a feminine singular ending of nouns borrowed from Latin and Greek, also used in Neo-Latin coinages to Latinize bases of any origin, and as a Latin substitute for the feminine ending - ē  of Greek words: anabaena; cinchona; pachysandra.

-ia a noun suffix having restricted application in various fields, as in names of diseases ( malaria; anemia ),  place names ( Italia; Romania ),  names of Roman feasts ( Lupercalia ),  Latin or Latinizing plurals ( Amphibia; insignia; Reptilia ),  and in other loanwords from Latin ( militia ).

 < Neo-Latin, Latin, Greek,  equivalent to
-i-  (formative or connective) or -ī-  ( Greek -ei- ) + -a,  feminine singular or neuter plural noun or adj. ending


I think <-ia> is the suffix, as <phobia> is a noun and it says it’s used in 'names of diseases'.  I’m not sure if having a <phobia> is a disease but it could certainly be very debilitating for some people depending what the <phobia> is. 

Let’s check the other suffix…

-c - no dictionary results

-ic 1. a suffix forming adjectives from other parts of speech, occurring originally in Greek and Latin loanwords ( metallic; poetic; archaic; public  )  and, on this model, used as an adjective-forming suffix with the particular senses “having some characteristics of” (opposed to the simple attributive use of the base noun) ( balletic; sophomoric  );  “in the style of” ( Byronic; Miltonic  );  “pertaining to a family of peoples or languages” ( Finnic; Semitic; Turkic  ).

2. Chemistry . a suffix, specialized in opposition to -ous,  used to show the higher of two valences: ferric chloride.

3. a noun suffix occurring chiefly in loanwords from Greek, where such words were originally adjectival ( critic; magic; music  ).

Middle English
-ic, -ik  < Latin -icus;  in many words representing the cognate Greek -ikos  (directly or through L); in some words replacing -ique  < French  < Latin -icus


<-c> no results.  <-ic> looks good. 

I just went back to etymology online and found this…

phobic (adj.) Look up phobic at
1888, from phobia + -ic. As a noun from 1968. The Greek adjective was phobetikos "liable to fear."

 The word sum - phob + ic à phobic

But let’s check RELATIVES on Word Searcher to make sure.



Look at this word <technophobe>

Now I think the base is <phobe>


Yes, and I think the single, silent <e> is dropped when the vowel suffixes <-ia> and <-ic> are added.

phobe/ + ia à phobia

phobe/ + ic à phobic


PRONUNCIATION - words containing the digraph <ph>, make the sound /f/ are of Greek origin.


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