I'm looking for a single word that means talking with a raised voice, but still a few decibels short of shouting. Imagine for example the beginning of an argument:

"I sold our cow for some beans."

"You did what?" ____ed Jack's mother.

"Magic beans."

"You imbecile!" she shouted.

You get the idea. Say and tell seem a bit too weak, whereas shout, scream, cry and the like are a bit too loud.

Perhaps another way to describe it is the sort of voice you use when you'd like to shout, but you're not sure if it's socially appropriate for you to do so (for the moment).

I've considered "call out" but it doesn't quite seem like it fits.

  • 3
    Try "balked" (unrelated to volume, but meets the context).
    – Dan Bron
    Feb 18, 2015 at 14:20
  • ". . . queried Jack's mother incredulously." Feb 18, 2015 at 20:20
  • @DanBron Using a context-specific word is definitely a good idea.
    – Andrey
    Feb 19, 2015 at 10:00

9 Answers 9



"You did what?!" exclaimed Jack's Mother.

Note also the addition of the exclamation mark.

  • 1
    +1, Exclaim and @bib's -snap, seems to be in tune with OP's context.
    – Misti
    Feb 18, 2015 at 17:59
  • +1, Good point about the exclamation point. You could just use 'said' and get across the volume with the punctuation.
    – DCShannon
    Feb 18, 2015 at 21:34
  • 1
    This is the best choice; most of the other suggestions here have other connotations. See dictionary.reference.com/browse/exclaim?s=t Since the utterance in question is a question, "demand" might also be suitable.
    – Jeff
    Feb 19, 2015 at 2:06
  • 1
    "Exclaim" is the best fit, I think. Thank you!
    – Andrey
    Feb 19, 2015 at 9:58

Perhaps barked

To speak sharply; snap: "a spot where you can just drop in ... without anyone's barking at you for failing to plan ahead" (Andy Birsh).

American Heritage

And as suggested in the prior offering, snap

Say something quickly and irritably to someone:

[NO OBJECT]: McIllvanney snapped at her

[WITH DIRECT SPEECH]: “I really don’t much care,” she snapped

Oxford Dictionaries Online

  • barked in that context will makes it sound that Jack's Mother is a b*tch (female dog). Feb 19, 2015 at 16:40
  • @IsmaelMiguel Acting like a dog is independent of gender.
    – bib
    Feb 19, 2015 at 17:21
  • I know, I know. I'm just saying. It really isn't the best word, unless you are saying bad things about Jack's Mother. Feb 19, 2015 at 17:23


"You did what?"snapped Jack's mother. (No pun intended with respect to the beans).


You could do it with adverbs--said loudly, told him loudly, etc. There's also say/tell in a raised voice.

As for single words, here are a few (definitions from Merriam-Webster):

  • Holler: to call out loudly

  • Bellow: to shout in a deep voice

  • Roar: to sing or shout with full force

In another vein, hiss has the connotation of being angry, but deliberately keeping your voice low. "'You did what?' hissed Jack's mother."

  • 3
    I would consider 'holler', 'bellow', and 'roar' to all be at least as loud as 'shout'.
    – DCShannon
    Feb 18, 2015 at 21:28

Exclaim is good, but also tends to imply an emotional response in addition to the added volume.

Vociferate is the best single word I can think of that refers to increased volume, with or without the "emotional baggage".

  • 2
    'Vociferate' may be technically correct, but I would be surprised by anyway even knowing the word, much less using it.
    – DCShannon
    Feb 18, 2015 at 21:32
  • @DCShannon agreed, but then that depends on the context, too. All of the answers here carry other connotations, such as surprise or anger, so I'll still insist that it's the best single word that meets Andrey's request. I just wish I could remember the what Safire wrote about using a word when you weren't sure the audience would understand it...basically it was to aim slightly over their heads, to give them the benefit of the doubt and get them to pull out their dictionary once in a while.
    – JeffSahol
    Feb 19, 2015 at 16:09


"You did what?" shrieked Jack's mother.


"You did what?" yelped Jack's mother.

  • 'Yelp' has the connotation of fear or surprise rather than anger, so I don't think that works. Shriek may work, depending on the tenor of the voice involved.
    – DCShannon
    Feb 18, 2015 at 21:31

Alas, the verb ejaculated is an excellent fit, but it perhaps can no longer be used in this context since many people only would read it as a sexual reference.

Webster's: to say (something) suddenly and forcefully.


How about ejaculated:

to utter suddenly and briefly; exclaim.

In context:

You did what?" ejaculated Jack's mother.

Of course, ahem, context is very important when using this word.


"project (one's voice)"

to use one's voice forcefully enough to be heard at a distance, as in a theater.

It communicates the loudness of the words without the connotation of being argumentative or losing control.

  • But it would sound strange if it were used to describe people talking without much distance between them.
    – Nicole
    Feb 18, 2015 at 19:11
  • Also, project isn't usually used with quoted speech. The equivalent (or near enough) could be call.
    – Chris H
    Feb 18, 2015 at 21:05

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