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Pronounced /tɪtjʊˈbeɪʃən/Help with pronunciation

This word is mostly in medical use, to describe some abnormal way of walking or of holding oneself, usually as a symptom of a cerebral or spinal disease.

This tremor was interesting not only because it involved his hands and his head, so-called titubation, but because it soon became apparent that when the politician had to concentrate or felt uneasy, the nodding head was momentarily stilled.

The Times, 21 Jan. 1983.

It comes directly from the Latin verb titubare, which could mean “stutter” as well as “stumble”, and this former meaning occasionally surfaced in English, though it is long since obsolete.

Outside medicine, titubation has been used facetiously to refer to unsteadiness brought on by too much of the demon drink, though this wasn't the implication in the report in The Times.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 7 Mar. 1998
Last updated: 7 Jan. 2012

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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-tit1.htm
Last modified: 7 January 2012.