What is Introversion?

Joe Still
2 min readJan 11, 2021

I have been in a few discussions about the “real” meaning of introversion and extraversion recently. Often when I hear a word used in argument or present in a profound statement, I like to look it up!

Introversion (n): the quality of being shy and reticent

This definition does not surprise me. Let’s keep scrolling…

Introversion (psychology): the tendency to be concerned with one’s own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things.

Here we go, that’s what I want. The initial definition comes off to me as common behavior implied by introversion whereas the second seems to better directly define the word itself.

Let’s dive further into the word’s origin…

Introvert comes from Modern Latin intro- meaning “to the inside” and vertere meaning “to turn” evolving finally into mid 17th century term introvert meaning “turn one’s thoughts inwards (in spiritual contemplation)”. When looking up definitions and etymology, I tend to discount parenthesized text as a cultural tendency rather than a strict universal application as otherwise it would not be parenthesized!

Discussing this with my colleague Lauren, she found this image on Reddit:

It’s a valuable disambiguation of social anxiety, but based on the definition and etymology, I assert that attention on one’s thought bubble of any kind is an act of introversion. Further, per the Psychology definition, I conclude one can be considered an introvert based purely on if their time is spent in the majority with their attention inward. Surely a majority of one’s time spent with attention inward is likely to yield common behaviors to others doing the same, but I do not think those common behaviors are what make one an introvert.

In practice, it may be more useful to evade the use of these terms and instead discuss the behaviors of anxiety, or shyness, or being reticent than to work on a foundation of one being inherently an introvert. However, I always find diving into dictionary definitions and etymology enlightening when trying to understanding our world. It’s strange to me how often I am surprised at how the words I am using are defined in a dictionary.