idée fixe

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for October 11, 2019 is:

idée fixe • ee-day-FEEKS  • noun

: an idea that dominates one’s mind especially for a prolonged period : obsession


“When Byrne arrived, he noticed the trees stood close together—far too narrow a space for something with broad shoulders and big feet to make a clean egress. And there, between three and five feet off the ground, snagged in the bark, he spotted the tuft of hair and piece of skin he hoped would bring him one step closer to his idée fixe, the sasquatch itself, a towering hominid of North American lore.” — Reis Thebault, The Washington Post, 6 June 2019

“Though it takes a shocking turn toward the horrific, [Flannery O’Connor’s] ‘Wise Blood’ is in fact a comedy of aberrant humors, in which every character is driven by a compulsive idée fixe.” — David Ansen, Newsweek, 17 Mar. 1980

Did you know?

The term idée fixe is a 19th-century French coinage. French writer Honoré de Balzac used it in his 1830 novella Gobseck to describe an obsessive idea. By 1836, Balzac’s more generalized use of the term had carried over into English, where idée fixe was embraced as a clinical and literary term for a persistent preoccupation or delusional idea that dominates a person’s mind. Although it is still used in both psychology and music, nowadays idée fixe is also applied to milder and more pedestrian obsessions.

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