The Joy of Language Learning

Vertigo and Acrophobia

Morbid fear of heights, especially when it is irrational (for e.g. when one is not particularly high up or is safely secured) – is often and incorrectly referred to as vertigo – perhaps, at least in parts, due to the popularity of Alfred Hitchcock‘s psychological thriller film by the same name.

A scene from Alfred Hitchcock's film Vertigo
A scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s film Vertigo

Vertigo which comes from the Latin verto (meaning: a spinning movement) actually refers to a type of dizziness in which a person inappropriately experiences the perception of (spinning) motion.

Extreme & irrational fear of heights is more accurately referred to as acrophobia – a term coined by Italian physician Dr. Andrea Verga in 1887 to describe a condition he himself suffered from! Acrophobia comes from Greek akros (at the highest point) or akron (summit, edge) and phobia (fear).

Did you say acrophobia? Wassat?
Acrophobia, eh? Wassat?  (Photo Credit: Reuters)

Incidentally, acrophobia is also related to the word acropolis.

Words discussed:
Vertigo, Acrophobia

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