Printable Version
Pronunciation: shi-vê-ree Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A serenade of callithumpian music with kettles, pans, teatrays, and the like, applied to unpopular events or people and weddings. 2. Discordant sounds, a babel of noise.

Notes: Today instead of the old French charivari, we tie tin cans to the newlyweds' car or chase them out of town honking our car horns. In the US and Cornwall this word was pronounced [shi-vê-ree], so it came to be spelled shivaree. It is a lexical loner that comes with only a plural: charivaris.

In Play: We don't have as many charivaris as we once did, so we use this word today only figuratively: "When the kids got into the pots and pans, they created a regular charivari." Or even: "The band has made incredible progress: it began sounding like a charivari."

Word History: The origin of the word charivari is likely from the Vulgar Latin caribaria, plural of caribarium "rattling of kitchenware". This word was borrowed from the Greek karebara, literally "heaviness in the head" but also used to mean "headache", from kara "head" + baros "heavy, strong, deep (voice)" + -ia, a noun suffix. Kara came from PIE ker- "horn", that also went into the making of English horn and Latin cornus "horn" that went into cornucopia "horn of plenty". We also see cornus in cornet, borrowed from French, and English's own hornet, the bug with the very sharp horn on the end opposite where horns normally stand. We see baros again in the English borrowing from Greek barometer, which measures atmospheric pressure (weight). (Today's fascinating Good Word is a find from our old friend Rob Towart. Thanks again, Rob.)

Dr. Goodword,

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