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Pronounced /traɪˈpjuːdɪeɪt/Help with pronunciation

If you tripudiate a person, you dance with excitement or figuratively trample on an opponent in triumph.

The Oxford English Dictionary marks this as “rare and affected”, a reasonable conclusion. It had its time before the public, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but as writers came to eschew rhetoric and prefer straightforward prose, it gradually fell out of use and had pretty much vanished by the end of the nineteenth century.

A typical instance of the type of high-flown language in which it flourished is Thomas Carlyle’s History of Friedrich II of Prussia. He recounts the occasion in 1730 when the future king let slip some premature news about the marriage of his sister Wilhelmina to Frederick, the British Prince Of Wales: “Upon which the whole Palace of Charlottenburg now bursts into tripudiation; the very valets cutting capers, making somersets, — and rushing off with the news to Berlin.” [Somerset is an old form of somersault, to turn head over heels.]

The word is from Latin tripudium, stamping on the ground, which is possibly from words meaning three and foot, indicating a measured dance of some sort, perhaps during a religious ritual. The first sense in English referred to dancing, skipping or leaping for joy or excitement. The sense of trampling on an opponent came into the language only in the nineteenth century.

An example is in Love’s Meinie by John Ruskin: “And observe also, that of the three types of lout, whose combined chorus and tripudiation leads the present British Constitution its devil’s dance, this last and smoothest type is also the dullest.”

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 29 Nov. 2008

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-tri3.htm
Last modified: 29 November 2008.