• borborygm •
bor-bê-rig-êm • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Grumbling of the bowels, the rumbling of the stomach such as might occur after eating a heavy meal.
Notes: If you wish to speak medically, you can call this embarrassing sound a borborymus, too. If you do, you have to remember that the plural is borborygmi. If you use our short form, you may simply say borborygms. The adjective is borborygmic and borborology is the scientific study of the problem; however, up to the 17th century it meant "profanity". If you don't want your borborygms to go to waste, you might try a little after dinner gastromancy.
In Play: Today's word is the perfect word for the sound it names, a fact that has attracted writers for ages. Aldous Huxley complained about "the stertorous borborygms of the dyspeptic Carlyle" and Nabokov noted that "all the toilets and waterpipes in the house had been suddenly seized with borborygmic convulsions." Elizabeth Fenwick wrote in Long Way Down (1959), "The room was very quiet, except for its borborygmic old radiator."
Word History: This Good if funny Word came to us from Greek borborugmos via Latin to French borborygme, where English picked it up. It is clearly onomatopoetic, the imitation of the real sound in the sound of the word that names it. It is odd the French and English did not simplify this word to borborism, as the Greeks themselves ultimately did. (We hope that Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira, an editor of the Good Word series who suggested today's Good Word, happily digests all his meals without borborygmic accompaniment.)