AskDefine | Define xenophobia

Word Net

xenophobia n : an irrational fear of foreigners or strangers

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From Greek ξένος (xénos, foreign) + φόβος (phobos, fear) + -ia.



  1. An exaggerated or abnormal fear of strangers or foreigners.
  2. A strong antipathy or aversion to strangers or foreigners.



Derived terms

Related terms


A pathological fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners.

See also

Xenophobia is a fear or contempt of that which is foreign or unknown, especially of strangers or foreign people. It comes from the Greek words ξένος (xenos), meaning "foreigner," "stranger," and φόβος (phobos), meaning "fear." The term is typically used to describe a fear or dislike of foreigners or of people significantly different from oneself.


As with all phobias, a xenophobic person is aware of the fear, and therefore has to genuinely think or believe at some level that the target is in fact a foreigner. This arguably separates xenophobia from racism and ordinary prejudice in that someone of a different race does not necessarily have to be of a different nationality. In various contexts, the terms "xenophobia" and "racism" seem to be used interchangeably, though they can have wholly different meanings (xenophobia can be based on various aspects, racism being based solely on race and ancestry).
For xenophobia there are two main objects of the phobia. The first is a population group present within a society that is not considered part of that society. Often they are recent immigrants, but xenophobia may be directed against a group which has been present for centuries. This form of xenophobia can elicit or facilitate hostile and violent reactions, such as mass expulsion of immigrants, or in the worst case, genocide.
The second form of xenophobia is primarily cultural, and the objects of the phobia are cultural elements which are considered alien. All cultures are subject to external influences, but cultural xenophobia is often narrowly directed, for instance at foreign loan words in a national language. It rarely leads to aggression against individual persons, but can result in political campaigns for cultural or linguistic purification. Isolationism, a general aversion of foreign affairs, is not accurately described as xenophobia.

Examples of Xenophobia


From 1641 to 1853, Japan had a policy of exclusion of virtually all foreigners (not merely an avoidance of foreign relations), known as 'national closure', or sakoku. In the early 19th century, Mito scholars advocated jōi, the forceful expulsion of 'barbarians', though almost none existed there. By the middle of the 19th century, with outside pressure mounting, some Japanese scholars and leaders tied 'Western Learning' and 'Nativist Studies' (kokugaku) to a goal of nation building. Nihonjinron, a widely popular type of nonfiction literature emerging in the second half of the 20th century, has been described as xenophobic, though most of the works in the genre lack this element.

Dominican Republic

According to an Amnesty International, the United Nations and The Human Rights Watch, physical attacks against Haitians have increased since 1992 and reports of the lynching of Haitians surfaced as late as 2006. Homes of suspected Haitians are sometimes burned to the ground and police roundups of "Haitian looking" people are conducted on a regular basis. According to another New York Times report in 2004, grandchildren and great grandchildren of Haitians are denied birth certificates, medical care, education and social services because of their race and decendancy. http://www. In 2007 the United Nations found "profound and entrenched" racism at all levels of Dominican society, including within families.

South Africa

There was a spate of attacks against foreigners in South African townships in May 2008. The attacks originated in the township of Alexandra which is an impoverished suburb in the city of Johannesburg. Social tension is high, because of the influx of foreigners into South Africa in recent years, most notably 2–4 million Zimbabweans (roughly a quarter of the population of Zimbabwe). The South African government seems unwilling or unable to enforce border control. In additions to the porous borders, the South African Department of Home Affairs –tasked with matters of immigration– are slow and inefficient at processing asylum seekers, creating many loopholes for unscrupulous immigrants who simply apply for refugee status in order to obtain the necessary permits to then work and move freely in South Africa. These foreigners are in direct competition for jobs and living space with the poorest citizens. Many incidents of crime are also blamed on these foreigners. More than 50 foreigners were reportedly killed in the attacks with roads barricaded and police battling with the protesters. South African President Thabo Mbeki has since called on the South African National Defence Force to help the SAPS (South African Police Service) to prevent any further killings of immigrants. Xenophobic violence also spread to the Western Cape in Du Noon in Milnerton with hundreds of terrified foreigners forced to run for their lives.

Former Yugoslavia

As the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia collapsed in the 1990s, xenophobic views between ethnicities who were rivals over territory began to develop. Atrocities and ethnic cleansing occurred during the Yugoslav wars between these ethnic groups. Since the collapse of Yugoslavia, ethnic Albanians, Bosniaks, and Croats typically have a negative outlook on Serbs, whose armed forces fought wars to keep Serbs united with Serbia and committed atrocities against all these groups. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the number of serious and large scale atrocities committed by nationalist Serb forces there caused the United Nations to intervene and push for the internal partition of Bosnia & Herzegovina into a Serb Republic (Republika Srpska) and a Bosniak-Croat federation (Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina). In turn, Serbs have an especially negative outlook on ethnic Albanians and Croats. Many Serbs saw Croatia under the leadership of Franjo Tudjman as similar to that of the fascist Ustase regime in World War II which committed genocide against Serbs, and nationalistic Serbs see Croats themselves as the enemies of Serbs. In Kosovo, many Serbs are opposed to Kosovo's declaration of independence due to Kosovo's historical links to Serbia, and Serbs have claimed that Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority have pressured Serbs to leave and committed atrocities against Serbs.

Sociobiological Explanation

The effects of xenophobia (dislike against the genetically dissimilar out-group and nepotistic favoritism towards the genetically similar in-group) are analyzed by many sociobiological researchers. Some see it as an innate biological response on the part of the evolved human organism in inter-group competition. In his famous book, The Ethnic Phenomenon, Pierre L. van den Berghe, anthropological professor of the University of Washington, discusses the concepts of kin selection, ethnic nepotism, and the biologically-rooted tendency of people that are more similar genetically to behave more generously toward each other. In Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing, author James Waller argues that all human beings "have an innate, evolution-produced tendency to seek proximity to familiar faces because what is unfamiliar is probably dangerous and should be avoided. More than two hundred social psychological experiments have confirmed the intimate connection between familiarity and fondness. This universal human tendency is the foundation for the behavioral expressions of ethnocentrism and xenophobia" (Oxford University Press, USA, 2002, p. 156). Frank Salter, an ethological researcher of the Max Planck Institute, deals with similar "taboo" topics in his controversial book, On Genetic Interests: Family, Ethnicity and Humanity in An Age of Mass Migration; this work has been praised by well-known sociobiology innovator E.O. Wilson as "a fresh and deep contribution to the sociobiology of humans." Salter posits an "innate group-descent module" in the human mind to explain the universal occurrence of ethnic nepotism. In Salter's view, favoritism towards one's own ethnicity is an evolutionarily-based "objective" value and, from a political science perspective, Salter proposes a "universal nationalism", in which all planetary ethnic-based communities or nations have the right to preserve their own heritage and distinctiveness.


External links

xenophobia in Afrikaans: Xenofobie
xenophobia in Arabic: كره الأجانب
xenophobia in Bulgarian: Ксенофобия
xenophobia in Catalan: Xenofòbia
xenophobia in Czech: Xenofobie
xenophobia in Danish: Xenofobi
xenophobia in German: Xenophobie
xenophobia in Estonian: Ksenofoobia
xenophobia in Spanish: Xenofobia
xenophobia in Esperanto: Ksenofobio
xenophobia in Basque: Xenofobia
xenophobia in Persian: بیگانه هراسی
xenophobia in French: Xénophobie
xenophobia in Croatian: Ksenofobija
xenophobia in Indonesian: Xenofobia
xenophobia in Italian: Xenofobia
xenophobia in Hebrew: שנאת זרים
xenophobia in Georgian: ქსენოფობია
xenophobia in Lithuanian: Ksenofobija
xenophobia in Hungarian: Xenofóbia
xenophobia in Dutch: Xenofobie
xenophobia in Japanese: 外国人嫌悪
xenophobia in Norwegian: Xenofobi
xenophobia in Polish: Ksenofobia
xenophobia in Portuguese: Xenofobia
xenophobia in Romanian: Xenofobie
xenophobia in Russian: Ксенофобия
xenophobia in Simple English: Xenophobia
xenophobia in Slovak: Xenofóbia
xenophobia in Slovenian: Ksenofobija
xenophobia in Serbian: Ксенофобија
xenophobia in Finnish: Ksenofobia
xenophobia in Swedish: Främlingsfientlighet
xenophobia in Turkish: Zenofobi
xenophobia in Ukrainian: Ксенофобія
xenophobia in Chinese: 仇外
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