We’re all aware of the meaning of phobia: An extreme or irrational fear of something. The list of phobias ranges from trees to crowds to cats to blushing to ants to darkness to bald people to pretty much everything in between. The possibilities are essentially endless, and there seems to be a word for each and every fear. So which definition belongs to brontophobia?
If you’re a bit obsessed with dinosaurs or have a child studying them in school, you may have an upper hand right now. No, brontophobia is not a fear of dinosaurs (that’s ornithoscelidaphobia), but brontophobia and brontosaurus do share the same Greek root word: Brontē.
Any connection to the Brontë sisters? Oddly enough, perhaps. The Brontë family has Irish origins. Their father, Patrick Brontë, was born Patrick Brunty, but he decided to change the spelling of his last name at some point. Although he came from a poor family, he managed to achieve an education and became a priest, poet, and writer. He was apparently familiar with classical Greek and some speculate that when he changed the spelling of his name he was inspired by the literary cyclopes Brontes, one of three cyclopes brothers who crafted thunderbolts for Zeus.
So what does brontē mean? Got a guess yet? If it’s still baffling, look above you to the dark and stormy skies. Maybe a brontosaurus with his head high in the heavens was believed to be in close company with this phobia-worthy phenomenon. Or maybe the rumble of those huge footsteps rattled the earth reminiscent of this tempestuous sound. Yes, brontē means thunder. Directly translated, brontosaurus means thunder lizard. And brontophobia is none other than an abnormal fear of thunder.
What IS What a Wonderful Word Wednesday? I’m a fan of words. They’re just so darn interesting and super useful for conveying ideas, telling stories, and painting word pictures. I constantly come across unknown words…or words I’m familiar with but unsure of the precise definition…or underused words, wonderful words, words which (in my opinion!) really ought to be in circulation a lot more than they are! Enter WWWW. The purpose of these posts is to bring you an interesting word every week along with a visual to help solidify the meaning. I hope you stop in every once and again or, better still, join me every Wednesday on this lexical road trip to a richer vocabulary!