Printable Version
Pronunciation: ko-ri-ê-may-ni-ê Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. Dancing sickness, St. Vitus' Dance, St. John's Dance, tarantism. 2. Dance madness, dance craziness or insanity, extreme love of dancing.

Notes: This word was taken as a serious illness in the ancient history of English speakers. It comes with the full panoply of the mania family: the adjective is either choreomanic or choreomaniac, and the latter may be used as a noun referring to someone who is dance-crazy.

In Play: choreomaniaThe only sense of this word recognized by the few dictionaries that carry it is the first sense above: "My earliest known ancestor died from choreomania in the 17th century." However, there is no reason we should limit its use so narrowly: "Polly Ethyl is such a choreomaniac that she competes in every dance marathon she hears about."

Word History: Choreomania originated as the name of a presumed malady that appeared in many European countries from the 14th through the 17th centuries. It involved hundreds of people, as if in a trance, forming processions and jumping around erratically as though dancing. It is a Greek compound composed by Paracelsus (1493-1541), a Swiss alchemist, from Greek choro(s) "dance" + mania "madness". Choros was probably bequeathed to Greek from PIE gher-/ghor- "to enclose", presumably because when PIE people danced, they danced in an enclosure. It shows up in Greek chortos "courtyard, pasture", Latin hortus "garden", Irish gort "field, pitch", Welsh gardd "garden", Breton garzh "hedge(row)", German Garten "garden", English garden, Russian gorod "city", Serbian grad "city" and Lithuanian gardas "stall, pen, fence".

Dr. Goodword,

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