What does Enneagram mean? (A complete guide)

In this article, we will look at what Enneagram is and how it works while we attempt to answer the question “What does Enneagram mean?” If you are new to this topic, here is a complete guide for you to understand what it is and how it works.

 Enneagram is a theory that offers an explanation for understanding the human personality in terms of nine different types. It explains the different types of personalities with the help of a geometric figure like that of a regular nine-sided polygon. 

Enneagram defined

The word enneagram comes from the Greek word “Ennea” which means nine and “Gramma” which means something that is written or drawn. Enneagram consequently literally means nine different types of illustrations. According to this theory a person’s personality can be identified as one of the nine possible combinations that are inclusive of one’s beliefs, values and motivations.

The formal definition of Enneagram is as follows:

“A system of classifying personality types that is based on a nine-pointed starlike figure inscribed within a circle in which each of the nine points represent a personality type and its psychological motivations influencing a person’s emotions, attitudes, and behaviours.

What is the Enneagram symbol?

The nine-pointed polygon is used to represent the components of enneagram. This figure comprises three parts. According to the esoteric spiritual traditions, they can be understood in the following terms:

  1. The circle – it is the outermost boundary of the figure. It is symbolic of “Unity”
  2. An inner triangle – the three connecting points 3-6-9. It symbolises the “Law of three” which holds that whatever energy an individual may emit to the world, be it positive or negative, it will be returned to the individual three times.
  3. An irregular hexagonal “periodic figure” – the connecting points 1-4-2-8-5-7. It represents the “Law of seven” because 1-4-2-8-5-7 is the repeating decimal created by dividing one by seven in base 10 arithmetic.

Components of Enneagram 

The enneagram defines personality as a combination of distinct features that are unique to each type. Each type can therefore be understood as a submission of these sub-components that help differentiate with the help of distinct characteristics. Following are the components of an enneagram:

Basic personality type –

By taking the enneagram personality test, you can identify your basic type of personality. This basic type is what your dominant personality traits are as a result of numerous factors. 

These factors include:

  • Pre-natal facto
  • Your inborn temperament
  • Childhood experiences

This dominant type narrows down to one type of personality but may not be limited to the same. The enneagram looks at personality as a dynamic system of human characteristics that constitute a full spectrum of traits. Each type has an adaptive pattern based on the specific core belief and supporting characteristics in the form of wings which may belong to other types as well.

The centres –

The enneagram can be looked at as a 3 x 3 assortment of 9 types of personality in the three centres. Each of the three centres are the basis of commonality for three personality types. Additionally, each centre also has a dominant emotion that instigates the largely unconscious emotional responses in its associated types. These are described as follows:

  • Instinctive centre (Body) –
    Type 8-9-1 fall under the instinctive centre. They experience distortions in their instinct, the root of our life force, vitality, and survival and are inclined to follow their instinct/gut feeling. The common emotions for body centre are anger or rage. It comes as an instinctual response to the sense of feeling interference or compromising with autonomy.
  • Feeling centre (Heart) –
    Type 2-3-4 fall under the feeling centre. They experience distortions in their feelings, and are likely to follow their heart. The common emotion for feeling centre is shame. They look for mirroring, recognition and validation and may feel ashamed when they feel a sense of deficiency, emptiness, or lack of attention.
  • Thinking centre (Head) –
    Type 5-6-7 fall under the thinking centre. They experience distortions in their thinking, and are likely to follow their wisdom and presence of intelligence. The common emotion for the thinking centre is fear. They may feel fearful when they lose sense of presence, support from others, and/or guiding from who they may look up to.

The wings –

Wings are the two types of personality on the either side of the dominant personality type. These are representative of complementary characteristics of one’s personality. The wings are considered as the “second-side” of one’s personality as there is a high possibility of presence of such characteristics in varied proportions. Therefore, it is important to take them into consideration to better understand one’s personality.

Only after identifying one’s basic personality, can the wings be identified. When taken into account, the personality types double up – from 9 to 18 considering two wings for each type.

The levels of development –

There is an internal structure of growth and development for each of the nine enneagram types. This structure is a continuum of one’s behaviours, defences, attitudes, and motivation that are accounted for in totality. The levels of development of personality help us understand the changing nature of personality while providing an explanation for the differences within each personality type itself. These are:


  • Level 1: The Level of Liberation
  • Level 2: The Level of Psychological Capacity
  • Level 3: The Level of Social Value


  • Level 4: The Level of Imbalance/ Social Role
  • Level 5: The Level of Interpersonal Control
  • Level 6: The Level of Overcompensation


  • Level 7: The Level of Violation
  • Level 8: The Level of Obsession and Compulsion
  • Level 9: The Level of Pathological Destructiveness

At each of these levels, psychological shifts occur that are indicative of the potential strengths and weaknesses of each type. Levels 1-2-3 are the healthiest, 4-5-6 are average and have potential for growth, and 7-8-9 are the unhealthiest wherein individuals may behave in an immature manner.

Directions of Integration & Disintegration –

In the diagram, the enneagram types are interconnected with arrows going across. Each type is connected to two other types which indicate the direction in which the type goes when under stress (disintegration) or under growth (integration).

The direction of disintegration or stress is indicated by the sequence of numbers 1-4-2-8-5-7-1 whereas the direction of integration or growth is indicated by the sequence of numbers 1-7-5-8-2-4-1

The three instincts –

The three instincts, also sometimes referred to as “the subtypes” are instinctual intelligences that are unique to our survival ability. One of these, is often the dominant instinct that colours our personality and is attached to our beliefs and values we are most comfortable with. The three of them are present in us in different variations as the first is the dominant one, second is the supporting, and the third is the least developed one which has potential. These are as follows:

  • Self-preservation Instinct –
    Individuals driven by the self-preservation instinct are concerned with safety, comfort, health and the well-being of the physical body. Their primary goal is to have enough resources to meet their life’s demands.
  • Sexual (Attraction) Instinct –
    Individuals driven by the sexual instinct are concerned with generating one-on-one relationships as they crave for stimulation and chemistry. Their primary goal is to have intense relationships to remain satisfied.
  • Social (Adaptive) Instinct –
    Individuals driven by the social instinct often misidentify themselves as sexual instincts because they too crave for intense one-on-one relationships. The difference is that they are able to adapt themselves to the needs of social environments and their primary goal is to have long-term personal connections.


What does the enneagram test mean?

Enneagram is a system of understanding human personality as a concept of dynamic and fluid nature. The theory characterises personality into nine possible types of personalities. The enneagram test helps you identify your basic personality type closest to the 9 distinctions of personality.

What are the 9 personality types?

The nine enneagram types are:

Type 1 The Reformer – The Rational, Idealistic Type: Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, And Perfectionistic
Type 2 The Helper –The Caring, Interpersonal Type: Demonstrative, Generous, People-Pleasing, And Possessive
Type 3 The Achiever –The Success-Oriented, Pragmatic Type: Adaptive, Excelling, Driven, And Image-Conscious
Type 4 The Individualist –The Sensitive, Withdrawn Type: Expressive, Dramatic, Self-Absorbed, And Temperamental
Type 5 The Investigator –The Intense, Cerebral Type: Perceptive, Innovative, Secretive, And Isolated
Type 6 The Loyalist –The Committed, Security-Oriented Type: Engaging, Responsible, Anxious, And Suspicious
Type 7 The Enthusiast –The Busy, Fun-Loving Type: Spontaneous, Versatile, Distractible, And Scattered
Type 8 The Challenger –The Powerful, Dominating Type: Self-Confident, Decisive, Willful, And Confrontational
Type 9 The Peacemaker –The Easygoing, Self-Effacing Type: Receptive, Reassuring, Agreeable, And Complacent

What is the rarest enneagram?

It is believed that type 4’s are the rarest enneagram types. This is so as 4’s are often the most artistic, emotional, and introverted personality types. But this may be debatable because it is also possible for them to be an extrovert.

What is the enneagram based on?

The principal source of enneagram is attributed to Oscar Ichazo’s teachings. These are primarily the ones in the areas of ego-fixation, holy ideas, virtues, and passions (1931-2020).


In this article, we looked at what enneagram is and what are its constituents.

In conclusion, Enneagram is a system of personality that describes an individual as a combination of numerous components as described by core beliefs, centres, and wings. These are further influenced by the level of development one is operating at accompanied by the three instincts.