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

Definition of ululate

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

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Other Words from ululate

ululation \ ˌəl-​yə-​ˈlā-​shən How to pronounce ululate (audio) , 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

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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, "Review: An Opera Erases and Rewrites the American Myth," 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, "Column: Keep The Bean forever open, clear and free of preachers and protesters," 17 Sep. 2019 Memes of women praising the crown prince and ululating in celebration danced around the Internet. Ben Hubbard, BostonGlobe.com, "Saudi Arabia chips away at oppressive system by granting women travel rights," 2 Aug. 2019 People in the courtroom were ecstatic, leaping up, clapping and ululating, LEGABIBO legal policy director Caine Youngman told The Associated Press. NBC News, "Botswana decriminalizes gay sex in landmark Africa case," 11 June 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, "Botswana decriminalizes gay sex in landmark Africa case," 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, "Pope in Morocco: Walls, fear-mongering won’t stop migration," 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, "What to Remember Before ‘GLOW’ Comes Back for Season 2," 25 June 2018 The crowd ululates and the black BMW disappears as supporters cut toward it. Laignee Barron / Kedah, Time, "Mahathir Mohamad’s Last Stand: Malaysia's Aging Strongman Seeks to Unseat His Protégé," 8 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of ululate

circa 1623, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ululate

Latin ululatus, past participle of ululare, of imitative origin

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The first known use of ululate was circa 1623

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Cite this Entry

“Ululate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ululate. Accessed 17 May. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of ululate

literary : to cry loudly

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