Printable Version
Pronunciation: sê-sU-rês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Emitting whispering or rustling sounds makes anything susurrous. Breezes, brooks, or bacon in a frying pan all produce susurrous sounds

Notes: This Good Latin word has more whispering sounds [s] than our native Germanic "whisper" and conveys the sense better as a result. It also lacks the negative connotation of hissing. If you don't like so many Ss, you may use susurrant in its stead. The verb is susurrate "to make a whispering, rustling sound" with its own family: susurration, susurrative, etc. Just remember the spelling rule: one S, two Rs!

In Play: S-s-s-s-s.The good Dr. Goodword has enjoyed life on banks of the susurrous Susquehanna River for the past half century. Streams like it are notoriously susurrous. However, this adjective also associates well with voices, "Miss Teak's susurrous voice drove men to distraction—some with lust, others with suspicion." Of course, leaves become susurrous when the wind rakes them in autumn, often striking up a susurrous banter with the sizzle of the grill.

Word History: Today's Good Word comes from Latin susurrus "whisper", one of the most perfectly onomatopoeic words in any language. It is, in fact, an old Proto-Indo-European root sur- or swer- "sound", found in Sanskrit svirati "sounds" and Serbian svirati "to play (a wind instrument)". Reduplicating the first two letters of this root would give us the susur- that we see in the root of the Latin word. The same root, by the way, developed naturally through our Germanic ancestors to become swarm in English, another susurrous object we occasionally encounter. (We should all swarm to Katy Brezger of the Alpha Agora to express our gratitude for suggesting this absolutely lovely word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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