Stickybeak’s Lexicon. Aboulia (abulia).

Welcome to Stickybeak’s Lexicon. Here you will find my (ir)regular scribblings about words newly learnt, phrases freshly heard, and sayings just-acquired.

This is not intended as an all-encompassing dictionary; Samuel Johnson I am not. I simply fancied sharing any intriguing words and phrases with you as I discover them. I might even try using them in my writing; you might like to as well. If you do, let me know; you could even offer up an example of how you might use the word.

Aboulia (Abulia)

I’ll begin with an admission: sometimes I worry that I should already be familiar with a word which I have only just come across. How is it, I think (trying to ignore the looming feeling that I might just be a little bit, hmm, inadequate, in the vocabulary department), that a word which has such a precise meaning has passed me by all these years? Surely it must have appeared on at least one page of one book that I’ve picked up? I’m normally very conscientious about looking up words as they leap out at me for the first time. Perhaps I simply got lazy one afternoon and hoped that the meaning would make itself clear a bit further along; naturally, by the time this happened, my sieve-like memory would have deleted the original intention to reference the word and any benefit from absorbing said word would thereby be lost for ever in the ether of time.


I encountered aboulia (abulia) for the first time last week (not personally, although having looked it up, I might have suffered something similar during a recent bout of gastric flu) whilst reading some online flash fiction. For those of you not familiar with the word, and please let there be at least one, it is a neurological term concerning the loss of will-power as a mental disorder (Oxford Encyclopaedic English Dictionary), or put more clearly, the loss or impairment of the ability to make decisions or act independently (I forget where I read that).


Other online sources tell me that aboulia is one of the disorders of diminished motivation, falling somewhere in the middle of the spectrum: apathy being less severe and akinetic mutism being rather much more so. (You see what happens? I look up one word, and end up becoming expert in a whole branch of clinical neurology/psychology).


In my research, I have also come across a chap called Paul Oscar Blocq, who gave his name to Blocq’s disease, the synonym of which is the wonderfully rhyming condition astasia-abasia. I think this more specifically concerns the inability to stand or walk in a normal manner, but appears to be linked to aboulia.


So there you have it: aboulia. I wonder where I might find the opportunity to use this in a story; perhaps you would like to try first. I’d also be interested to know if you have ‘discovered’ a word, only to find that you really ought to have known about it already. Go on, I won’t laugh. Promise.




5 comments on “Stickybeak’s Lexicon. Aboulia (abulia).

  1. W. H. Dean says:

    Hi. It is a good word. It’s important to note that “aboulia” comes from the Greek verb “bouluo,” which means to plan or deliberate. The nounal version, boule, referred to a legislative or executive meeting. With the addition of the privative alpha (the prefix “a”), it means the absence or inability to deliberate or plan.

  2. John Wiswell says:

    What a weird narrator. Sounds almost like he needs a nap. This felt a little like a Marc Nash joint with its love of over-lapping and self-contradicting language.

  3. Hi there Justin — this is much more fun than reading a dictionary. I’m kinda reading it, but one word at a time with stuff to keep me interested.

    When I first read “Blocq’s disease” I thought that said “Blocq’s cheese”, a strange thing for him to invent. Does this suggest the onset of aboulia?


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