We often have people contact us trying to correct our spelling of “Extravert” pointing out that it is in fact “Extrovert.” How did this happen, why and how did the ‘a’ become an ‘o?’ Very strange!
Carl Gustav Jung first coined the terms and he was very clear:
Extraversion [sic] is characterized by interest in the external object, responsiveness, and a ready acceptance of external happenings, a desire to influence and be influenced by events, a need to join in…the capacity to endure bustle and noise of every kind, and actually find them enjoyable, constant attention to the surrounding world, the cultivation of friends and acquaintances… The psychic life of this type of person is enacted, as it were, outside himself, in the environment.CJ Jung, Psychological Types, CW 6, pars. 1-7
The Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t really help explain why it has changed, only that it has:
The original spelling ‘Extravert’ is now rare in general use but is found in technical use in psychology.
Words like ‘extraordinary’ maintain the ‘a’ so why has ‘extravert’ changed. There is an interesting debate on the Straight Dope site, which is all around whether we should be purist or see language as evolving ie do euphonics beat grammar? And I guess that is personal choice:
In the UK the word “literally” has ‘literally’ (no really) been reclassified to mean “figuratively” rather than “really” which is extremely confusing. So I will let one of my team sum up how he sees it. When he first joined, he said he remembered the spelling as when there is an extravert around, it feels like there are ‘extra’ people in the room. Maybe that’s the best reason for maintaining faith with the term ‘Extravert.’