Printable Version
Pronunciation: t(y)u-mêlt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Loud, confused noise, hubbub, like one caused by a crowd of people as 'the tumult of a baseball game'. 2. Confusion, disarray, discord, turbulence, as 'tumult in the neighborhood'. 3. Agitation of the mind or feelings, as 'a tumult of shock and disbelief'.

Notes: The difference between a tumult and a riot is that a riot is destructive, implying anger or fear, while a tumult may be a peaceful loud hubbub. We have a choice of adjectives for this word, the common tumultuous plus the rather rare tumultuary. Tumulter "someone who stirs up a tumult" is now considered obsolete.

In Play: Tumult does not necessarily imply fear or anger: "In the face of the stay-at-home orders, the streets of the city appeared absent their usual tumult and bustle of life." Tumult may refer to devastation: "The COVID-19 pandemic has sent the stock markets into catastrophic tumult."

Word History: This word came to English from Old French tumult, inherited from Latin tumultus "uproar, disorder, disturbance", a noun built from tumere "to be swollen; to be swollen with passion, excited". Latin inherited this word from PIE teue- "to swell, swelling". With the same -m suffix this word passed through its Germanic ancestors to come to English as thumb and with an -l suffix as thole "oarlock". We find the same suffix on Greek tulos "callus, lump". Russian tvarog "curds", which may be seen as "swollen milk", comes from the same source with an -r suffix plus an old Slavic suffix. In Greek we find turos "cheese" with the same suffix. (Today's Good Word find was made by our old friend Albert Skiles, who was kind enough to have shared it with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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