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Pronounced /ˈpɪləl(j)uː/Help with pronunciation

The title illustration from the first edition of Troy Town
The title illustration from the first edition of Troy Town by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, in which pillaloo is shouted.

The Oxford English Dictionary tells us pillaloo began its life centuries ago as a hunting cry, taken from the Irish puilliliú.

Among its appearances was that in 1888 in The Astonishing History of Troy Town by Q (Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch), though you might have some difficulty picking the sense out of his representation of the local Cornish speech:

An’ the wust was, that what wi’ the rumpus an’ her singin’ out “Pillaloo!” an’ how the devil was amongst mun, havin’ great wrath, the Lawyer’s sarmon about a “wecked an’ ’dulterous generation seekin’ arter a sign” was clean sp’iled.

Henry Murray’s usage in Lands of the Slave and the Free of 1857 is very much easier on the modern eye and ear; he uses it in the alternative Irish English sense of a cry of distress:

The dialogue was brought to a sudden stop by the frantic yell of the juvenile pledge of their affections, whose years had not yet reached two figures; a compact little iron-bound box had fallen on his toe, and the poor little urchin’s pilliloo, pilliloo, was pitiful.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 19 May 2007

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

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This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-pil2.htm
Last modified: 19 May 2007.