I'm looking for a word that describes the oscillating motion of a bellows, like in an accordion. Oscillation doesn't quite cut it, because I'm also looking to get a sense of the air flow. A friend suggested "bacillation", which unfortunately isn't a real word. "Bronchillation" seems like a good word too, as it has "bronchus" as a root, but that isn't a real word either.

  • There are probably not enough Google hits for the string 'breathing motion' for it to be reckoned as even a collocation, but enough to consider its use acceptable. Jan 21, 2015 at 21:27
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    Surely the movements of an accordion must be according. Jan 21, 2015 at 21:34
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    @ScotM mentioned billowing, which I would have suggested. I'll mention bellowing as well, though that typically refers to sound, not to bellows-like movement.
    – Drew
    Jan 21, 2015 at 21:53
  • Bellow felt good to me too: until I looked it up :-) I haven't found it yet, but there must be a dictionary somewhere that describes the motion of bellows as bellow.
    – ScotM
    Jan 21, 2015 at 22:12
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    I think most people would attempt to say that it's accordioning, and stumble over the last syllable before maybe searching for another term. This is because the verb "to accordion" is generally understood to mean "to expand and/or contract like an accordion".
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 21, 2015 at 22:17

5 Answers 5


Undulation refers to a wave motion:

From the VERB Undulate:


  1. Move with a smooth wave-like motion:

It's original meaning was a wave in water:

Undulate: 1640s, from Medieval Latin *undulatio, from Late Latin undulatus "wavy, undulated," from undula "wavelet," diminutive of Latin unda "wave"

(see water (n.1)). > Old English wæter, from Proto-Germanic *watar (cognates: Old Saxon watar, Old Frisian wetir, Dutch water, Old High German wazzar, German Wasser, Old Norse vatn, Gothic wato "water"), from PIE *wod-or, from root *wed- (1) "water, wet" (cognates: Hittite watar, Sanskrit udrah, Greek hydor, Old Church Slavonic and Russian voda, Lithuanian vanduo, Old Prussian wundan, Gaelic uisge "water;" Latin unda "wave").

It would not be unreasonable to extend the application to the wave of air caused by the bellows of the accordion, or the motion of the accordion itself. But then, you could opt for the simpler


From the VERB wave:


  1. Move to and fro with a swaying motion while remaining fixed to one point:


  1. Physics A periodic disturbance of the particles of a substance which may be propagated without net movement of the particles, such as in the passage of undulating motion, heat, or sound.

Pulsation feels good with regard to an accordion:

From the VERB pulsate:


  1. Expand and contract with strong regular movements:

When you watch an accordion player, you see of the bellows expand into an arc, and then compress into a rectangle again. The expansion into an arc could be described as:


which also evokes the bellowing sound an accordion can make.

Of course, during its expansion the accordion is


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    Beat me to it! Just as well...I'm generally much lazier/less thorough in my answers. Jan 21, 2015 at 21:42
  • There is always a luck of the draw in this @DaveMagner. I just sat down to my computer and the question appeared :-)
    – ScotM
    Jan 21, 2015 at 21:44
  • These are all really good words. I chose this as the answer because its a very thoughtful post with a lot of options, but as other uses have commented, it is incredibly difficult to describe all the nuances of the accordion with just one word.
    – user107010
    Jan 21, 2015 at 22:22

Sinusoidal, adjective

si·nu·soi·dal \ˌsīn-yə-ˈsȯi-dəl, ˌsī-nə-\

of, relating to, shaped like, or varying according to a sine curve or sine wave; sinusoidal motion; sinusoidal alternating current; sinusoidal grooves -merriam-webster.com

— adverb: sinusoidally


Looking at the video of this virtuoso at play, there are many techniques an accordionist uses for expression. (I particularly like the staccato pulsing at the very beginning of this video.)

For the life of me, I cannot determine one word which can encompass all the variations of accordion movement.

  • Indeed. One word can't really describe all of that.
    – user107010
    Jan 21, 2015 at 22:23
  • Bravo! There are 50 videos of extreme accordion skill, and each maestro has a unique left hand pulsation technique! The IPad Accordion was hilarious! LOL!
    – ScotM
    Jan 21, 2015 at 22:29
  • Button accordions and piano accordions play the same note for each key regardless of which direction the bellows are moving. The techniques used in your link create texture in the music, rather like 'tonguing' each note with a flute, as opposed to slurring (tonguing only the first of a series of notes). Other bellows instruments (melodions and Anglo concertinas) play 2 different notes on the same button - one when you push the bellows, one when you pull (or draw) them. This produces a unique emphasis in the tune, as there is always a slight extra force with a change of 'breath'.
    – Mynamite
    Jan 21, 2015 at 22:55

The accordion's wheezing ebb and flow ?

  • +1 for ebb and flow, but if they're wheezing they need mending!
    – Mynamite
    Jan 21, 2015 at 23:11

Bellows, including those in an accordion, operate through expansion and contraction - just like our lungs. Expansion opens the bellows, drawing in air, and air is expelled by contraction. In the case of an accordion, both actions channel air over the reeds of the instrument which make the pitches and chords, controlled by the player.

Example: The constant expansion and contraction of the accordion's bellows, droned a pleasant tune that lulled us to sleep.

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