Word of the Day : November 4, 2010


verb ULL-yuh-layt


: howl, wail

Did You Know?

"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 his book 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.


The puppy ululated in distress every time he was left alone.

"[Singer] Sussan Deyhim is one of Iran's most potent voices in exile, for the simple reason that she possesses a marvelously potent voice. She wails and coos and ululates, the sound of the soul in translation." -- From a music review in the Los Angeles Times, September 13, 2010

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