Saturday, 14 December 2013

Cacoethes Scribendi - Writing Wrongs

She's thinking of having a cigarette. Or maybe a Bloody Mary. Or perhaps buying another Michael Buble album.
(photo by Eugenia)


Noun. Mid-16th century.
[Latin from Greek kakoethes, use as noun of adjective kakoethes ill-disposed, formed as CACO- + ETHOS.]

An evil habit; a passion or 'itch' for doing something inadvisable.

Photo by Oliver Hammond


An irresistible desire to write.

Cacoethes (pronounced cack-o-ee-thees) is a devilishly alluring word that can be applied to anything one has an urge to do to the point of sickness, be it smoking, drinking, gambling or even something more benign like stamp-collecting. It's also attached to various Latin phrases, including cacoethes carpendi (an uncontrollable urge to find fault) and cacoethes loquendi (an uncontrollable urge to talk compulsively) - no sexist jokes on either of those, please. Perhaps the most attractive of all such vices to bloggers and writers alike, however, is cacoethes scribendi - an uncontrollable urge to write. While this may manifest itself as hypergraphia - an urge to write so compelling that it's pathological - for any of us that have awoken in the middle of night, an idea or passage or even just a sentence bursting from our minds, cacoethes scribendi is a fitting noun for that moment.

Do you have cacoethes scribendi, or any other cacoethes?

Do you have any suggestions for any other Latinesque cacoethes?

Please don't fight the urge to write your most ill-advised comments below. 


  1. That's funny! That the adjective is used as a noun in English I mean.
    A cacoethes person is a very mean person in Greek. Cacoethes also means malign when we talk about tumors and the opposite is caloethes.

    1. Aww. 'Caloethes' isn't in my OED - us English speakers clearly just like the bad stuff ...

  2. Yep. I've got cacoethes scribendi. And it is irresistible. I ALWAYS have a notebook and pen on my shelf next to my bed and it's usually the last thing I do every night. But it's not just writing a story plot or idea, in fact it's never that. Usually it's lists and plans for the day/week and vignettes . I think it could be a touch of OCD... Chlobo. P.S. Is there one for laughing, "cacoethes cachinnare" perhaps? Sometimes laughing is irresistible! :)

    1. Cacoethes scribendi is usually closer to what you describe actually - it doesn't mean the person with it is writing anything creative, just that they have to be writing. And I do like cacoethes cachinnare - irresistible laughing at ill-advised moments.