Origin of the term
Although sexual attitudes tracing back to Ancient Greece (8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity (ca. 600 AD) have been termed homophobia by scholars, and is used to describe an intolerance towards homosexuality and homosexuals that grew during the Middle Ages, especially by adherents of Islam and Christianity, yet the term itself is relatively new.
Coined by George Weinberg, a psychologist, in the 1960s, the term homophobia is a blend of (1) the word homosexual, itself a mix of neo-classical morphemes, and (2) phobia from the Greek φόβος, phóbos, meaning "fear", "morbid fear" or "aversion". Weinberg is credited as the first person to have used the term in speech. The word homophobia first appeared in print in an article written for the May 23, 1969, edition of the American pornographic magazine Screw, in which the word was used to refer to heterosexual men's fear that others might think they are gay.
Conceptualizing anti-LGBT prejudice as a social problem worthy of scholarly attention was not new. A 1969 article in Time described examples of negative attitudes toward homosexuality as "homophobia", including "a mixture of revulsion and apprehension" which some called homosexual panic. In 1971, Kenneth Smith used homophobia as a personality profile to describe the psychological aversion to homosexuality. Weinberg also used it this way in his 1972 book Society and the Healthy Homosexual, published one year before the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Weinberg's term became an important tool for gay and lesbian activists, advocates, and their allies. He describes the concept as a medical phobia:
[A] phobia about homosexuals.... It was a fear of homosexuals which seemed to be associated with a fear of contagion, a fear of reducing the things one fought for — home and family. It was a religious fear and it had led to great brutality as fear always does.
In 1981, homophobia was used for the first time in The Times (of London) to report that the General Synod of the Church of England voted to refuse to condemn homosexuality.
However, when taken literally, homophobia may be a problematic term. Professor David A. F. Haaga says that contemporary usage includes "a wide range of negative emotions, attitudes and behaviours toward homosexual people," which are characteristics that are not consistent with accepted definitions of phobias, that of "an intense, illogical, or abnormal fear of a specified thing." Five key differences are listed as distinguishing homophobia, as often used, from a true phobia.