Printable Version
Pronunciation: kah-li-wah-bêlz Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: Queasiness caused by anxiety, fear, or anticipation; butterflies in the stomach.

Notes: Collywobbles is pretty much out there on its own, without any derivational relatives. It currently requires a plural verb, although in the past it has been used in the singular when referring to actual stomach pain. This noun today may be used with a singular or plural verb: "collywobbles is" or "collywobbles are": your choice.

In Play: Now we have a name for those butterflies we get in our stomach that are let in by fear and anxiety: "Gosh, just looking at Sue St. Marie gives me the collywobbles." Collywobbles may be a part of the survival response for it is with us from an early age: "My granddaughter got the collywobbles when she saw Santa Claus for the first time at the mall and never did tell him what she wanted for Christmas."

Word History: This funny word is a compound originally made up of colic + wobble + -s, a suffix associated with ailments (measles, mumps, blues). Colic was borrowed from Old French colique, the remnant of Latin colica (passio) "colonic (suffering)", feminine of colicus "of the colon". Colicus came from kolikos, the Greek adjective from kolon "colon". Wobble is an authentic English word indicating a vibration or other back and forth movement, such as a butterfly's wings make. This word was inherited from a root that gave us the Germanic family of words that includes web, waffle, and weave.

Dr. Goodword,

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