before vowels phren-, word-forming element meaning "mind," also, in medical use, "diaphragm, muscle which parts the abdomen from the thorax;" from Greek phrēn, phrenos "the mind, spirit," also "the midriff, diaphragm," also "parts around the heart, the breast," and "mind, seat of thoughts." Compare Greek phrenes "wits, senses, sanity."

The word is of uncertain origin; perhaps from a PIE *bhren. Beekes finds the connection with phrassein "to fence or hedge in" "semantically attractive," but there are phonetic difficulties, and he finds "quite feasible" a relationship with phrazomai "to think, consider" (later phrazein; see phrase (n.)).

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