In my book, I came across this sentence:

"The revolution of 1848 reverberated throughout Europe, resulting in a series of revolutions, most powerfully in..."

Because the subject is the history of 19th century in Europe, many revolutions and ideologies was born and affected other countries beside the country they were born in.When I read it, the book uses different verbs to explain to this spreading of ideas. For example ; to echo, to resonate, to spread, to resound and last but not least to reverberate.

I'd like to know only for this sense in the context of the sentence, what would be change if we replaced to reverberate with other verbs in the original sentence in terms of meaning its convey. Did the writer just try to use different words or there are subtle difference in terms of effect .

"The revolution of 1848 resonated throughout Europe, resulting in a series of revolutions, most powerfully in..."

"The revolution of 1848 echoed throughout Europe, resulting in a series of revolutions, most powerfully in..."

"The revolution of 1848 spread throughout Europe, resulting in a series of revolutions, most powerfully in..."

"The revolution of 1848 resounded throughout Europe, resulting in a series of revolutions, most powerfully in..."

  • 'Spread' (not 'spreaded'!) is unmarked, rather prosaic. The rest have a dramatic tone. 'Echoed' sounds least dramatic of the three to me; the implication is that there is a lot of empty space (the unconcerned) as well as those affected. 'Resonated' gives the impression that more of the population is/are in tune. 'Resounded' is very emphatic: a big noise (ie high drama). // 'Reverberate' is perhaps like 'echoed' but connotes empty space less, so implying a more general response than 'echoed'. Sep 4, 2015 at 10:47
  • @EdwinAshworth Can we say resonate > reverberate ≥ echo>spread? And I have also a image that the word spread suggests a impression that more of the population is/are in tune but maybe in a less tense ..maybe than resonate?
    – Mrt
    Sep 4, 2015 at 11:03
  • @EdwinAshworth for example an ideology can spread across a country and almost everybody know about it but that does not have to mean everybody accept it , am I right? but when it comes to resonate , if an ideology resonates throughout a country almost everybody knows and supports it. This is just my idea, am I right?
    – Mrt
    Sep 4, 2015 at 11:07
  • Yes I think if something resonates, it is moved. Reverberate is similar, but with less amplitude. Resound and Echo suggest that something has been heard, but possibly without effect. Spreading can occur silently.
    – JHCL
    Sep 4, 2015 at 11:23
  • ODO suggests a BrE / AmE skew in connotation (as we're presented with different denotations). resonate: 1.1 Evoke images, memories, and emotions: the words resonate with so many different meanings [hence not necessarily mainly partisan emotions] ... 1.2 [chiefly US] (Of an idea or action) meet with agreement: the judge’s ruling resonated among many of the women Sep 4, 2015 at 18:34

4 Answers 4


As someone who has studied the 1848 revolutions in the last ten years I can well understand why the author choose reverberate. There were three principal centres of revolution - Berlin, Vienna and Paris- with a lot of other places becoming involved.

Each fed off the other and the revolutionaries in each place gave encouragement to one another. So reverberate, which implies an echo sound, seems precisely the right word to have used.

My dictionary defines resound with reference to reverberate anyway.

Better than spread, reverberate gives the sense that the sound (the revolutionary ardour) resonated back and forth. Which is what I seem to recall happened.

  • The phantom downvoter has been at work here. Any reason why?
    – WS2
    Sep 5, 2015 at 6:50

Unfortunately I cannot yet comment, but I can provide a theory related to physics. In physics, some of these words have a completely different meaning, even though all related to "passing on" a signal. The meaning of the words may be smoothed in linguistics, but this is how you could distinguish between some of them:

Echo relates to a rebound. It is often damped (but not necessarily), meaning that the rebounded signal has less impact than the original signal and eventually settles to the original state. The impact decreases upon it being spread. Excitement is short. One could use fashion as an example of something that echoes. Very popular at first, but it is no longer fashion after it has been spread everywhere.

Resonance, in contrast to echo, cranks up neighboring elements and is not damped. The signal could even be excited and become unstable. In other words, the final state could be significantly different from the initial one. For instance, it could lead to a revolution or war. It generally lasts longer than an echo and leads to more excitement. A leads to B, B leads to A+, A+ leads to B++, etc. It goes back and forth. An example is the cold war.

Resound and reverberate are more closely related to echo, albeit less often associated with damped signals. They would fit in between echo and resonance.

Spread would be most neutral and is the general word used for opening out, passing on but also keeping. In contrast to the above words, spreading does not imply that the original source is affected by the spreading itself. An example is the invention of toilet paper.

  • Aren't you conflating 'sound box' and 'thunder box'? Sep 4, 2015 at 18:21
  • 1
    @Edwin Ashworth I don't follow. Sep 4, 2015 at 19:38

All of the words have different definitions and uses, and contrary to popular opinion, one does not need a degree in accoustical engineering to understand them. A consultation with the oracle, "dictionary" helped me.

Based on your context, the words mean:

Resonated--to evoke a feeling of shared belief or emotion. Echo--to have a sympathetic response Resound--to become famous. Reverberated--to have a lasting and continued effect. Spread--to become widely known or to have a far-reaching influence.

Example sentences:

1) The rock idol's comments resonated with his teen audience. 2) My feelings of anger about the lack of overtime pay at the company found an echo in the union. 3) Many of Mozart's operas were a resounding success throughout Vienna. 4) The effects of the CEO's conviction reverberated throughout the financial world and caused stock prices to fall for several months. 5) The effects of the publication of Ulysses spread throughout the publishing world and soon, many authors bravely published their own works.

These definitions and the example sentences should help you understand the differences in meaning in your example sentences.

Edit: in looking at these words further, and your example sentences, I notice that the preposition "throughout" has remained the same in every sentence. I feel that this is not correct and is causing people to have trouble understanding the words, or use "sound" thinking for the words because sound is something that does use "throughout" because it moves through space.

For example, "resonate" should really only be followed by "with." Even in a physics sense (and the example sentence is definitely not from that world) things resonate "with" each other. The expression "resonant circuit" is used in physics. A radio is a kind of resonant device because you tune the radio circuit to resonate "with" the source. Resonance is not something that spreads like sound (or revolutionary ideas), it is a property that something has compared with another. A piece of wood cannot resonate "with" electromagnetic radiation. In a similar sense, Christian ideology does not resonate "with" Buddhists. However, people are not made of wood and an idea can spread and over time an idea will begin to resonate with a growing number of people, so "resonance" can spread throughout a population.

Similar arguments can be made for the other words. For example, echo should only really be used as a noun in the example sentence, not as a verb.

The difficulty I believe is in thinking of "revolution" as a sound source and using sound metaphors.

This is an interesting article that discusses an aspect of this http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/magazine/21FOB-onlanguage-t.html?_r=0

  • Could you please specify which dictionary. It's helpful, and quotes must be attributed on ELU. Sep 4, 2015 at 15:42
  • @EdwinAshworth The example sentences are mine. The definitions come from The American Heritage Dictionary Ipad paid App. 4th Edition. I strongly suggest others purchase this. It has very good definitions. They are not sloppy, and have helped me to understand word differences on many occasions where other dictionaries were no help at all. Sep 4, 2015 at 15:47
  • AHDEL is available free at 'the Free Dictionary'. The definitions are at least as useful in this version. As are those of Collins. But there is considerable broadening of individual senses and overlap of definitions given for these synonyms, both within and amongst dictionaries. Sep 4, 2015 at 16:00
  • @EdwinAshworth I really wish we could open a discussion about dictionaries on this site. I've spent a lot of time in the last 5 years pouring through different dictionaries and I sometimes wonder where dictionaries get their definitions from. By synonyms, you mean the words in discussion here? They're not synonyms or interchangeable. Sep 4, 2015 at 16:06
  • (1a) Have you looked for recommendations at the Help Center here? (1b) Decent dictionaries (OED [eventually]; AHDEL; Collins; ...) do a lot of research, building corpora, deciding how words are actually being used. The words they list, and definitions, may well change over time. Usually provoking angry reactions from diehards. (2a) Yes. (2b) Yes they are. The only sensible usage of 'synonym' is 'one of 2, 3 ... words that may be interchanged in at least some situations with no or little change in meaning.' Anything much more rigorous would make the term useless. Sep 4, 2015 at 16:14

Spread I am sure you know, it is like a disease, it grows through infection.

The others are all related to sound.

  1. First you utter a sound. The sound reaches the innards of something else and are met with recognition. This is resonance.
  2. Resonance causes vibrate in the same frequency. This is what it is reverberate.
  3. The vibration causes a sound identical to the resonated sound, thus resounding or echoing the original sound.

Resound and echo both mean the same: To repeat a sound.

Because of the different places in the process, the words carry different emphases:

  1. resonance is internal, and signifies agreement.
  2. reverberate is external, and causes effects / change in position.
  3. resound or echo are audible, and signify audible agreement.

(I feel like I've left something out, but I can't think of it just now, and I need to catch the bus, so apologies if I did leave something out, and for cutting it short. I'll come back later and review to make sure I got it all in)

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