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Post by Archived Topic » Thu Jun 17, 2004 9:51 pm

What is the exact etymology of the word "homophobia"? What did it mean when it was created as opposed to what it means now?
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HOMOPHOBIA, meaning fear or hatred of homosexuals and homosexuality, has nothing to do with ‘man’ and can refer to either male or female homosexuality. The confusion here lies in the fact that the prefix ‘homo’ has two different meanings, one derives from Latin and the other from Greek. The reason for your confusion is that we are dealing here with two completely different words, one with a Latin root, the other with a Greek root.

In Latin ‘homo’ means man, humankind, which gives us ‘homo sapiens’ and homicide, for example. It also gave us in the 1920s a different meaning of the word ‘homophobia’ than described above. This HOMOPHOBIA meant fear of men, or aversion towards the male sex or also, fear of mankind, anthropophobia, but this meaning of the word went out of use by about 1960.

In Greek the prefix ‘homo-’ means on in the same, similar, alike, which gives us homogeneous, homonym, homosexual, etc., for example. And in it also gave us ‘homophobia,’ the hatred of homosexuals, which first appeared in print in 1969, although many dictionaries say it appeared in 1955-60, but provide no examples.
<1920 “Her salient characteristic was a contempt for the male sex as represented in the human biped . . . The seeds of HOMOPHOBIA had been sown early.”—“Chamber’s Journal.
5 June, page 418/1> [[fear of men]]

<1969 “Such HOMOPHOBIA is based on understandable instincts among straight people, but it also involves innumerable misconceptions and oversimplifications.”—‘Time,’ 31 October, page 61/3>

<1975 “There is no such thing as the homosexual problem any more than there is a black problem—the problems are racism and HOMOPHOBIA.”—‘Globe & Mail’ (Toronto), 4 September, page 7/3>
(Merriam-Webster’s and Random House Unabridged Dictionaries, Oxford English Dictionary, Word Maven, 20th Century Words by Ayto, )

Ken G – January 29, 2004
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