AskDefine | Define monomaniac

Dictionary Definition

monomaniac n : a person suffering from monomania

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /ˌmɒnəʊ'meɪnɪæk/ (RP)
  • /ˌmɑnoʊ'meɪnɪæk/ (US)
  • Rhymes: -eɪnɪæk


  1. A person who is obsessed with a single thing, to the exclusion of other concerns.



  • 1873 — Horatio Alger, Bound to Rise, Ch. X
    Harry knew now that the old man was crazy, or at least a monomaniac, and, though he seemed harmless enough, it was of course possible that he might be dangerous.
  • 1890 — Arthur Conan Doyle, The Firm of Girdlestone, Ch. 44
    He had never yet been able to determine whether the old man was a consummate hypocrite or a religious monomaniac.


  1. Focussed on one thing above all others.


  • 1851 — Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Ch. 133
    ...then it was that monomaniac Ahab, furious with this tantalizing vicinity of his foe, which placed him all alive and helpless in the very jaws he hated; frenzied with all this, he seized the long bone with his naked hands, and wildly strove to wrench it from its gripe.

Related terms

Extensive Definition

In psychiatry, monomania (from Greek monos, one, and mania, mania) is a type of paranoia in which the patient has only one idea or type of ideas. Emotional monomania is that in which the patient is obsessed with only one emotion or several related to it; intellectual monomania is that which is related to only one kind of delirious idea or ideas.
In colloquial terms, the term monomania is often attached to subcultures that to the general public appear esoteric. However, the differences between monomania and passion can be very subtle and difficult to recognize.

Monomania in literature

The 19th century writer Edgar Allan Poe would often write tales in which the narrator and protagonist would suffer some form of monomania, becoming excessively fixated on an idea, an urge, an object, or a person, often to the point of mental and/or physical destruction. Poe uses the theme of monomania in:
  1. "The Black Cat" (a man fears his cat and kills it, adopts another cat, kills his wife, and is then punished by the cat)
  2. "The Oval Portrait" (about a painter who is obsessed with painting his wife)
  3. "Berenice" (about a madman who wants to marry his sick cousin only for her beautiful teeth)
  4. "The Masque of the Red Death" (a prince fears a terrible disease but finally gets ill from the red death and dies)
  5. "The Tell-Tale Heart" (a madman is obsessed with an elderly man's eye)
It is said that Flaubert's hatred of the bourgeois and their bêtise (willful idiocy), that began in his childhood, developed into a kind of monomania.
It is monomania from which Flaubert's tragic heroine Madame Bovary suffers; in her case it takes the form of an incessant guilt and fear of discovery. The same monomanic fear is explored in great depth in M E Braddon's novel, Lady Audley's Secret, through the protagonist Robert Audley, whom the guilty woman accuses of monomania in his relentless attempt to prove her guilt. She describes monomania thus:
What is one of the strangest diagnostics of madness--what is the first appalling sign of mental aberration? The mind becomes stationary; the brain stagnates; the even current of reflection is interrupted; the thinking power of the brain resolves itself into a monotone. As the waters of a tideless pool putrefy by reason of their stagnation, the mind becomes turbid and corrupt through lack of action; and the perpetual reflection upon one subject resolves itself into monomania.
In Crime and Punishment, by the renowned Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, the main character, Raskolnikov, is said to be a monomaniac on numerous occasions.
In Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851), Captain Ahab is a monomaniac, as shown by his quest to kill Moby Dick. One particular situation where he is shown as a monomaniac is in the crew's first encounter with the whale, stating "in his narrow-flowing monomania, not one jot of Ahab's broad madness had been left behind; so in that broad madness, not one jot of his great natural intellect had perished.” [Citation needed]
In Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff is described as a monomaniac, obsessing over his reunion with Cathy in the final chapters of the novel.
The Marvel Comics supervillain Bullseye is a professional assassin who obsesses over his targets. In one of his more recent appearances, he was revealed to be a monomaniac.
monomaniac in German: Monomanie
monomaniac in Spanish: Monomanía
monomaniac in Dutch: Monomanie
monomaniac in Japanese: モノマニア
monomaniac in Portuguese: Monomania
monomaniac in Russian: Мономания
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