I have been describing a forest scene and there are only so many times I can use a form of the word Rustling.

Is there a word or phrase that can be used in place of this (It doesn't have to fit perfectly into place with rustles/rustling/rustled).

Any word or phrase that can describe the sound of:

  1. Something moving through leaves
  2. Leaves interacting with each other physically
  • 1
    leaves crackling? or maybe fluttering leaves? Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 5:34
  • 2
    Crunchy crackling sound..?Just like the sound of paper fluttering when a strong wind blows through it. Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 5:38
  • This question might be helpful: (english.stackexchange.com/questions/18488/…) for the first point. Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 5:39
  • @JonyAgarwal fluttering is nice, and can work. :) thanks! Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 6:01
  • 5
    well you could just quit talking so much about how leaves sound...
    – Oldcat
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 18:06

9 Answers 9


Consider this lovely word, with its onomatopoeiac sibilance

susurrate, meaning to rustle, murmur or whisper

from the Latin susurrus for whisper.

From The Decline and Fall of the British Empire by Piers Brendon:

Especially alluring were the millions of date palms, with diamond-shaped striations on their trunks, golden clusters of fruit and an emerald whorl of fronds sussurating [sic] in the breeze.

  • 1
    You misspelled susurrate. Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 5:48
  • @JasperLocke Thank you. Two s's, two r's, and two u's. And it seems I'm not alone.
    – deadrat
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 5:53
  • No problem. I've been trying find this alternative spelling with two s's. Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 5:56
  • 1
    @JasperLocke The OED doesn't admit of the doubled s's, which is supported by the etymology, but ss is all the Ngram viewer can find in print. The google tells me that Italian doubles the s. Go figure.
    – deadrat
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 6:07
  • 1
    "onomatopoeiac sibilance" *melts* Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 21:07

You don't have to only use synonyms for this, you can use unique metaphors or creative descriptions to get your point across. You can incite thought without directly describing it. For example, this can suggest the sound of leaves:

The [wind] brought the forest to life.


The leaves were like a whispering audience.


The leaves sang a melody of comfort for those passing through the forest.

You could come up with unlimited creative descriptions for the sounds of rustling in a forest. I'm sure your readers would actually prefer to discover the sound instead of being told so straightforwardly and blandly what it is. Of course there is the time for that but painting a picture is almost always more interesting and beautiful.

You can also find unique words that aren't necessarily synonyms of "rustling" to graft in emotions or moods, like this for a frightening scenario:

The horror of the situation was only heightened by the lonesome sound of the leaves scratching and scraping one another.

Or for a pleasant scenario:

The leaves hummed and feathered as the women shuffled through the bright forest.

We tend to hear things very differently depending on how we feel in a given situation. Describing your sounds like this can increase the drama and enhance the mood.


The word psithurism means "the sound of wind in trees or rustling leaves" (not exactly what you were looking for).




to crackle can be used referring to leaves, especially dry leaves:

  • to make slight, sudden, sharp noises, rapidly repeated.

The Free Dictionary

Ngram: leaves crackling - You Tube the sound of crackling leaves.

  • I hear the leaves crackling under my feet as I trudge through the yard. I hear children yelling as they jump...

Crinkle is defined in Merriam-Wester as:

to give forth a thin crackling sound : rustle


to describe the movement of the leaves ...

swirling or dancing

leaves swirling / dancing in the wind

As to their sound...


the sound of leaves blowing


the sound of leaves crunching


The sound of leaves being crushed


Sweetly swinging maple leaves, the weightless, softly swaying leaves, whispering leaves,…


The word is probably psithurism.
Reference :https://www.wordnik.com/words/psithurism


Here's a list of sounds for many sorts of physical interactions. The only ones worth mentioning here are "rasping" and "scraping".

You could describe the sound instead; perhaps as "sibilant", as a "shushing" or "swishing" or "shuffling" sound, or with an onomatopoeia of your own invention.


And the leaves at my feet
Whisper sounds so familiar
Familiar, so familiar
Are you there? Are you there?

Darkening Of The Light - Concrete Blonde

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