late 14c., idroforbia, "dread of water, aversion to swallowing water," a symptom of rabies in man (sometimes used for the disease itself), from Late Latin hydrophobia, from Greek hydrophobos "dreading water," from hydr-, stem of hydor "water" (from suffixed form of PIE root *wed- (1) "water; wet") + phobos "dread, fear" (see phobia). So called because human sufferers show aversion to water and have difficulty swallowing it. In Old English as wæterfyrhtness. Related: Hydrophobe.
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