ul·​u·​late ˈəl-yə-ˌlāt How to pronounce ululate (audio)
ululated; ululating

intransitive verb

: to utter a loud, usually protracted, high-pitched, rhythmical sound especially as an expression of sorrow, joy, celebration, or reverence : howl
… eight singers took to the aisle, dancing with ferocious energy as the chorus sang, ululated and clapped in an exuberant, multisensory ode to joy.Susan Saccoccia
As soon as he said our mother's name, my sisters began to wail: keening, ululating cries, the Greek expression of sorrow for the dead.Nicholas Gage
ululation noun
As they rounded the tent the third time to the open doorway, they acknowledged the departure of the Old Woman with high-pitched trills and ululations Barbara A. Worley
When women spot Maathai, they surround her, offering congratulations, bursting into cries of celebratory ululation, asking to snap a picture with her. Judith Stone

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When Should You Use ululate?

"When other birds are still, the screech owls take up the strain, like mourning women their ancient u-lu-lu." When Henry David Thoreau used "u-lu-lu" to imitate the cry of screech owls and mourning women in that particular passage from Walden, he was re-enacting the etymology of ululate (a word he likely knew). Ululate descends from the Latin verb ululare. That Latin root carried the same meaning as our modern English word, and it likely originated in the echoes of the rhythmic wailing sound associated with it. Even today, ululate often refers to ritualistic or expressive wailing performed at times of mourning or celebration or used to show approval.

Examples of ululate in a Sentence

a widow ululating in sorrow Arab women ululating with grief.
Recent Examples on the Web Individual voices — chanting, ululating, cracking, squealing, howling — gradually emerge over speakers, as does a soft, smooth choral harmony underneath. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, 9 Mar. 2020 No, but their enjoyment of their visit to The Bean stands to be dramatically impaired if the immediately surrounding area becomes a boisterous daily forum for competing religious, political and social activists ululating for attention. Eric Zorn, chicagotribune.com, 17 Sep. 2019 Memes of women praising the crown prince and ululating in celebration danced around the Internet. Ben Hubbard, BostonGlobe.com, 2 Aug. 2019 People in the courtroom were ecstatic, leaping up, clapping and ululating, LEGABIBO legal policy director Caine Youngman told The Associated Press. Cara Anna, chicagotribune.com, 11 June 2019 Women ululated as Francis and the king walked along the promenade of the Hassan Tower complex under umbrellas. Amira El Masaiti, The Seattle Times, 31 Mar. 2019 Sam and Bash force the quiet Indian-American student Arthie Premkumar (Sunita Mani) to play Beirut the Mad Bomber, a Lebanese terrorist who growls and ululates. Judy Berman, New York Times, 25 June 2018 The crowd ululates and the black BMW disappears as supporters cut toward it. Laignee Barron / Kedah, Time, 8 May 2018 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ululate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin ululatus, past participle of ululare, of imitative origin

First Known Use

circa 1623, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ululate was circa 1623


Dictionary Entries Near ululate

Cite this Entry

“Ululate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ululate. Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

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