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What is the origin of the word tada — as used as an exclamation? Is it an onomatopoeic form of sound effects used in, say, television or does its origin lie elsewhere?

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I'd go with the onomatopoeic explanation. The pronunciation always includes a long final 'aah' sound. –  pavium Jul 10 '11 at 13:17
    
Related: One word for the ta-daa! pose? –  Callithumpian Jul 10 '11 at 13:21
    
Perhaps there's a case for saying it's a contraction of "Da da-da-da da-da da DAH!"? –  FumbleFingers Dec 20 '11 at 16:43
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3 Answers

up vote 18 down vote accepted

"Tada" is indeed an onomatopoeia (from OED):

Imitative of the sound of the musical flourish or fanfare (composed of one short note followed by one long note) which often accompanies an entrance, trick, etc., in various kinds of performance.

The word is imitating this classic horn sound.

Here is the first citation in 1913:

Coming front in utter disgust, he [sc. a conjuror] tells them [sc. the orchestra] that that won't do, that he wants something like ‘tadaa!’ from all of them. They seem to understand, so he goes off again. On his reappearance, however, he is met with a loud tumult, as all the orchestra shout out in unison the word ‘tadaa!’.

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Note: sc. means "namely". (It is an abbreviation of the Latin scilicet.) –  mgkrebbs Jul 10 '11 at 17:28
    
It's funny - I always assumed that musical sting was simply AN ATTEMPT TO SOUND LIKE "wala" (or "tada"). It seems extremely obvious that that is the case. The only reason the musical sting. makes you think of the concept "wala" or "tada" is because - it sounds like it. the idea that a musical pattern - on it's own - would, sort of platonically, suggest some meaning -- is bizarre. –  Joe Blow Jul 10 '11 at 18:38
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@Joe: 2 questions - first, when you say 'voila' or 'wala', is the first sound for you a 'v' as in 'van' (a big truck) or the 'w' in 'wan' (pale)? (the two sounds in English and French are distinct). - second, do you have any reference for your 'tada' <- 'voila' idea? –  Mitch Jul 10 '11 at 20:49
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@Joe Blow: You were also trying to connect these two words in your now-deleted answer. Provide actual historical evidence for this. Surely there would be plenty, as this is a word that sprang up in the 1900s. –  Kosmonaut Jul 10 '11 at 21:13
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@Joe Blow: As you see in my answer, the first citation of tada ever found by English etymologists is talking explicitly about how it is an onomatopoeia of the musical sting. It's actually amazing how on-the-nose it is. And, though you have said it is a "bizarre" etymology, you have given no reason why; and in fact, it is not strange at all. On the other hand, you have provided absolutely zero evidence for your voila theory, here or in your deleted answer, and quite frankly, the burden is on you to at least come up with some piece of actual, hard evidence. –  Kosmonaut Jul 10 '11 at 22:35
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I heard that the origin of "ta dah!" was in India, where in some language or idiom it meant "It's perfect just the way it is."

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But "I heard" is not a very good reference! –  GEdgar May 31 '12 at 21:55
    
...and 'some language or idiom' is maximally vague. –  Mark Beadles Oct 20 '12 at 0:19
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From the old celebratory Te Deums in Latin I thought?

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Do you have a reference or a particular reason you think this is the case? –  aedia λ Jan 17 '12 at 16:08
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protected by Hugo Jun 1 '12 at 9:27

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