Printable Version
Pronunciation: skwaw-lee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Like a squall, with gusts of wind. 2. Characterized or marked by squalls, having squalls.

Notes: This word is the adjective accompanying squall, a short powerful storm. It would seem to be a lexical orphan, unrelated to the verb (to) squall but see today's Word History.

In Play: Today's contributor sent this excellent example with her submission in the Agora: "Squally showers are often forecast for our area in Scotland." BBC weather forecasters here don't seem to know or need any synonyms. The second sense of this word fits expressions like this: "Horace had picked a squally coast on which to build his summer home."

Word History: Most dictionaries list the etymology of squall as "of unknown origin", leaving the question open for speculation. I see that it is used referring to storm related to the verb (to) squall, as 'a child squalling from an injury'. I can also see squall related to squeal by phonaesthesia, the direct relation between individual word sounds and meaning without the assistance of the lexicon. Some linguistic research has shown that [ee], like that in squeal, is a high vowel phonaesthesically related to small things, and [aw], as in squall, is a low back vowel or diphthong associated with large things. Hence squeal is a small high-pitched sound; squall is a large low-pitched sound. So, squall could be a phonaesthetic shift from squeal, reflecting the difference in loudness between the two sounds. (Now let's all give a bow to Eileen Opiolka of Scotland, who noticed this peculiar word in BBC weathercasts.)

Dr. Goodword,

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