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Imbecile refers to mental retardation, as well as a type of criminal. The term is closely associated with psychology, psychiatry, criminology, and eugenics.

It arises from the Latin word imbecillus, meaning weak, or weak-minded. "Imbecile" was once applied to people with an IQ of 26-50, between "moron" (IQ of 51-70) and "idiot" (IQ of 0-25).

The term was further refined into mental and moral imbecility. The concepts of "moral insanity," "moral idiocy," and "moral imbecility," led to the emerging field of eugenic criminology, which held that crime can be reduced by preventing "feeble-minded" people from reproducing.

"Imbecile" as a concrete classification was popularized by psychologist Henry H. Goddard and was used in 1927 by United States Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in his landmark ruling in the forced-sterilization case Buck v. Bell.

The term imbecile quickly passed into vernacular usage as a derogatory term, and it fell out of professional use in the 20th century.


For *imbeccillus, from in- +‎ bacillus, as if "without support, feeble".

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Imbecile" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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