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Singultient

Pronounced /sɪŋˈɡʊltɪənt/Help with pronunciation

When next you see some thespianic practitioner accepting an Oscar with extreme protestations of love and admiration for everyone she has ever worked with while flooding the lectern with tears of pleasure, you may describe her as singultient, among other possible adjectives, since the word refers to crying or sobbing

It would indeed be the mot juste, since its Latin origin lies in singultus, which can mean a speech broken by sobs. It could also refer to somebody having a fit of the hiccups, a state that can sound somewhat similar, and the Latin word sometimes appears in medical works as an alternative name for the condition. Other rare words from the same source include singult, a sob, and singultous, having the hiccups.

One of the few appearances of singultient is in The Ode of Life by Lewis Morris, of 1891: “Through the wastes of silence and sleep, There is no more stillness nor Death, The great Universe wakes with a deep-drawn singultient breath.”

It’s also in Vindiciae Academiarum, by Seth Ward and John Wilkins, dated 1654, a satirical work that mocked those who undertook a mystical search for the original “natural language” of Adam, which would be a universal language understandable by everyone. It would be utterly unlike the tongue-in-cheek prose of the reverends Ward and Wilkins, which I won’t try to interpret:

The lynges of the faetiferous elecution, being disposed only to introversion, was destitute at that time of all Peristalticall effusion, which silenced the Otoacoustical tone of the outflowing word, and suppressed its singultient irructations.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 5 Jul. 2008

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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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Last modified: 5 July 2008.