Printable Version
Pronunciation: -bêb Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: Commotion, tumult, uproar, ruckus associated with human activity.

Notes: Hubbub is a bereft lexical orphan; it doesn't even have a plural form. There was at least one use of this word as a verb, but this is considered a nonce usage. The same is true of hubbubish.

In Play: Today's Good Word most often refers to the commotion caused by human voices: "What is all the hubbub going on over there by the water cooler?" The next most frequent source of hubbub is the traffic of big cities: "Terry Yaqui tried to escape the hubbub of New York by retreating to a Japanese village, but he found an annoying hubbub there, too."

Word History: The word hubbub comes from a Celtic source that is probably related to ub ub ubub!, a Scots Gaelic interjection expressing contempt, or to abu, an ancient Irish war cry. In any case, hubbub was first recorded (1555) in the phrase 'Irish hubbub', which meant "the confused shouting of a crowd". Some wag suggested that the word originated in the phrase, "Hey, bub", as used in an Irish pub just before a brawl breaks out. No confirmation of that claim has come to my attention. In addition to the senses it has developed, hubbub was again used, possibly in an unflattering way, by the New England colonists as a term for a rambunctious game played by Native Americans in which players were noticed saying, "Hub! Hub! Hub!" (Thanks to a former Goodword editor, Paul Ogden, RIP, for the name 'Terry Yaqui'.)

Dr. Goodword,

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