verb ul·u·late \ ˈəl-yə-ˌlāt , ˈyül- \
|Updated on: 7 Jul 2018

Definition of ululate

ululated; ululating
: 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


play \ˌəl-yə-ˈlā-shən, ˌyül-\ 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

ululate was our Word of the Day on 06/08/2016. Hear the podcast!

Examples of ululate in a Sentence

  1. a widow ululating in sorrow

  2. Arab women ululating with grief.

Recent Examples of ululate from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ululate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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.

Origin and Etymology of ululate

Latin ululatus, past participle of ululare, of imitative origin

ULULATE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of ululate for English Language Learners

  • : to cry loudly

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