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  1. Donald Wertlieb

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0506

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Wertlieb, D. 2010. Libido. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. Tufts University

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


“Libido is a term used in the theory of the instincts for describing the dynamic manifestation of sexuality.” Thus Sigmund Freud began his 1923 encyclopedia article on libido theory. He had used the term libido (derived from the Latin for lust and desire) as early as 1894. His major theoretical treatise, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905/1973, p. 255) placed libido at the center of his theories of development and psychopathology. In his New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, a decade later, he introduced his review and current synthesis of libido theory by noting that “the theory of instincts is so to say our mythology” (Freud (1933/1973, p. 95). Even in Freud's later years, libido remained a central construct in psychoanalytic theory, one side of the basic, pervasive, instinctual dualisms: sex and aggression, life and death. The metapsychology of libido's vicissitudes and reorganizations over the course of development through the psychosexual stages—oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital—formed the core of early psychoanalytic theories of developmental psychopathology and clinical practice.


  • psychic energy;
  • psychoanalytic theory;
  • psychosexual states;
  • sexual drive