In my other blog I recently showed a close-up photograph of a cricket, and a commenter said that I should have added some etymology to the entomology by bringing in the word stridulation, which Spanish shares in the expected form estridulación. The latest edition of the American Heritage Dictionary gives two definitions:

1. Characterized by or making a shrill grating sound or noise.
2. Relating to or characterized by stridor.

 That second definition makes us aware that there’s a related noun stridor, which also has a two-part English definition:

1. A harsh, shrill, grating, or creaking sound.
2. Medicine  A harsh, high-pitched sound in inhalation or exhalation.

The DRAE defines the Spanish counterpart estridor as ‘Sonido agudo, desapacible y chirriante,’ which is about the same as the English definition.

Both forms of the noun go back to Latin strīdēre, an imitative verb that meant ‘to make harsh sounds.’ From that verb Latin created the adjective strīdulus, which we’ve borrowed as estriduloso/stridulous, and which is the basis for the modern verb estridular/stridulate and the noun that we began with, estridulación/stridulation.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jim in IA
    Jun 21, 2014 @ 08:13:45

    I’ve heard certain people described as strident.


  2. shoreacres
    Jun 21, 2014 @ 13:33:41

    I’ve known a few of those strident people Jim mentions, and would far rather have a chirring cricket for company.

    That reminds me that I found “skirr” hidden away in Aphanostephus skirrhobasis on your wildflower blog, “skirr” being a harsh, hard or grating sound, as of the wings of birds taking flight.

    Whirr is the most used of the family, I suppose, but chirr and skirr are wonderful, too. I went to my friend, Omnisearch, and found that I have used chirr, in a comment. Here’s the sentence:

    “For an hour or so afterward the mockingbirds sing and assorted insects chitter and chirr, especially the mole crickets.”


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Jun 21, 2014 @ 14:02:44

      I can see where a cricket would be a more pleasant companion than some people.

      From what I’ve found online, the Greek skirrhos that underlies the first part of skirrhobasis means ‘swollen’ or ‘hard’ in a physical (rather than auditory) sense.

      I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered the word chitter, which Merriam-Webster’s says goes back to the 13th century and is probably [like most such words] of imitative origin. Another online dictionary defines chitter as ‘twitter’ (which in the cyber world is a purveyor of lots of chatter). As for chirr, Merriam-Webster’s says it goes back only to around 1600, while the one-letter-different whirr dates from the 15th century.

      And now I’m reminded of a bumper sticker that made the rounds here some years ago: Visualize whorled peas.


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©2011–2018 Steven Schwartzman

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