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 ululation (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

Synonyms for ululate


bay, howl, keen, wail, yowl

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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

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 Voices ululate, reaching new heights and then immediately new lows, slipping and skittering among every note in between, as if to sing one pitch is necessarily to loop-the-loop through all the others in its vicinity. Lily Janiak, San Francisco Chronicle, "A rainbow of shades in the voices of SHN’s ‘The Color Purple’," 3 May 2018 All around were their followers, alternately singing and ululating, praying or reading their bibles, some holding candles and coils of incense aloft. Melissa Twigg, Vogue, "Why Lalibela, Ethiopia, Is the Next Machu Picchu," 2 Apr. 2018 The only major lender without a big investment bank is Wells Fargo, and the combined firm would have $3trn of assets, enough to make regulators ululate. The Economist, "Goldman Sags," 5 Oct. 2017

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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Ulu Dag







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Time Traveler for ululate

The first known use of ululate was circa 1623

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English Language Learners Definition of ululate

literary : to cry loudly

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ululate

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Nglish: Translation of ululate for Spanish Speakers

Comments on ululate

What made you want to look up ululate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a topic to which one constantly reverts

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