We English speakers have heaps of ways to raise our voices. Here are a few:
Shout has been a part of the language since the 1200s & has meant to call or cry out loudly that whole time. Its source is unclear, but it may be the root of shoot (when shouting, one throws one voice, a bit like one might “throw” an arrow or bullet).
Yell has been a part of English since the beginning of English. It comes through Proto-Germanic from the Proto-Indo-European word *ghel-, which meant to shout out, sing or yell. We can see the sing meaning of *ghel- in the modern word nightingale, which causes me to appreciate that nightingales held onto this sing meaning of the word; nobody needs birds who yell.
The Old Norse word skrækja made its way into English in the 1200s as scrycke, which eventually became both the word screech, & the word shriek, meaning exactly that. Linguists are pretty sure it’s an imitative word.
Bellow appeared in English in the 1300s, meaning to roar. It came through Old English from a Proto-Indo-European word meaning the same thing.
A comparable late-comer to English is the word holler, meaning to shout. Holler didn’t appear until the 1690s, from an earlier form, hollar, which referred to the act of calling the hounds in from hunting. A later shade of meaning denoted a style of singing popular at the time in the American South. Holler shares its roots with the word hello.
The modern digital equivalent of YELLING may have first been established in John Irving’s 1989 book, A Prayer for Owen Meany.
Ideas? Comments? Reactions? Please leave them in the comments section. YELL if you must.
Thanks to this week’s sources, Etymonline.com, the OED, Merriam-Webster, Collins English Dictionary, & Wordnik.com.
We English speakers have a number of words that mean to raise one’s voice.
Yell comes from the Proto-Germanic word gel-, to yell or shout. Some of the older forms live on in a name for a bird that yells out, the nightingale.
Our word bellow has been with us since English became itself, too. It seems to have come from the Proto-Indo-European root bhel-, to sound or roar. Back when Old English was in vogue, bellow only referred to the sounds of animals, but by 1600 we humans could bellow with the best of them.
Shout entered English about 1300 from an unknown source, though some etymologists argue that it may have come from the originally Old English word shoot, as a shout is a voice thrown or shot out. Others argue it may have come from the Old Norse word skuta, to chide or scold.
The Old English word rarian, meaning roar, bellow, lament or cry, became our modern word roar. Though nobody knows for sure, roar is most likely imitative.
The word scream is of somewhat unknown origin, though variations of it are peppered through the Anglo Saxon and Germanic languages. Scream showed up in English in the 1100s & originally meant to terrify or scare.
As I have a fascination with our ongoing prejudice against Anglo Saxon & Germanic words in favor of the more “civilized” words of Latin & Greek origin, I find it humorous that the English synonyms for yell originating in Latin & Greek are vociferate, & exclaim. To my ear, an exclamation or vociferation simply doesn’t have the guts & oomph found in a good old fashioned yell, shout, roar, bellow, or scream.
Please share any thoughts on all this in the comments section.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Wordnik, Etymonline, Merriam Webster, & the OED.
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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