I want to say that someone was doing (something) for the N-tieth time in a row, but in a way that emphasises both that this action is performed again, after a substantial amount of times (successfully, with no emotional tint for the outcome of the actions) and that no one, neither the "actor" nor the narrator is counting precisely which time this is.

More exactly I want to write something like: "She was reloading the gun for the N-tieth time", but in a way that will show that she has fired and reloaded the gun so many times, it's well past the easily numerable ones, like "first", "third", etc. and, yet, she doesn't count them.

This is for a short story, therefore I need an eloquent equivalent. Something that rolls of the tongue smoothly and is light and easy to read, as well as naturally flowing. It also needs to be somewhat complex, to that end I thank the people who have proposed the "umpteenth" answers, however (no offense) that sounds rural, uncouth and brings down the reader from the context I wish to establish. I realise it might be a good idea to specify the context, however it would be impossible at this point, as it only resides in my head in a fractured idea-state.

I was hoping there was an English equivalent to what we have in my country, which roughly translates to:

"She loaded the gun for the following time."
"She loaded the gun for the subsequential time."
It sounds bad, but I'm hoping I'm getting the point across.

  • 6
    It would certainly be more "natural" to refer to doing it for the nth time (that's about 14,000 hits, but there are none at all for the ntieth version). Feb 21, 2016 at 19:49
  • Has she hit anyone?
    – ab2
    Feb 21, 2016 at 22:25
  • @ab2, Every. Single. One. :)
    – mathgenius
    Feb 21, 2016 at 23:24
  • 2
    If you are really looking for a 'less incouth' version of umpteenth, this is Primarily Opinion-Based. Feb 22, 2016 at 10:53

10 Answers 10


I don't think one word will do what you want. How about "She reloaded the gun fluidly and repeatedly"

Fluidly means moving like a fluid, in a smooth, continuous manner. Synonyms for fluid, from Collins English Dictionary are:

flowing, easy, natural, smooth, elegant, graceful, fluent, effortless, feline, sinuous

repeatedly is defined here as:

over and over again; constantly

Another phrase the OP might use is:

Yet once again, she reloaded the gun.

To my surprise, the search for yet once again found that it it is from a poem From Lands Afar written for the Salvation Army's International Congress in 1914. (Author, Albert Orsborn).

Edit in Response to Comment by Dave_Thompson_085

See Google Books Yet once again for quotes from Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Dickens, Southey, and many, many other writers. Just one example (Wordsworth) from dozens, perhaps hundreds:

Yet once again do I behold the forms Of these huge mountains, and yet once again, Standing beneath these elms, I hear thy voice, Beloved Derwent, that peculiar voice Heard in the stillness of the evening air, Half-heard and half-created.

  • "She reloaded the gun once again", brilliant!
    – mathgenius
    Feb 22, 2016 at 2:24
  • @mathgenius thanks for the green check! Glad you liked it.
    – ab2
    Feb 22, 2016 at 2:37
  • 2
    The spelling is 'repeatedly'; your link is correct but your text is wrong twice. 'Once again' and 'yet again' are idiomatic, but the combination 'yet once again' is not. 'Yet again' is slightly more emphatic, which this OP wants. Feb 22, 2016 at 6:59
  • 3
    @dave_thompson_085 the number of hits for yet once again in Google Books seem to disagree with your affirmation
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 22, 2016 at 10:14
  • Repeatedly - could you use this i think it will work
    – user161682
    Feb 22, 2016 at 12:56

umpteenth, adjective, informal –TFD

Relatively large but unspecified in number: umpteen reasons; umpteen guests.

Doing something for the umpteenth time.

  • Thanks, but I'm looking for something more eloquent. Check the edit.
    – mathgenius
    Feb 21, 2016 at 23:25
  • 3
    @mathgenius - People seem compelled to upvote this answer, I implore you to replace the word in your title with this one or with nth time to improve searchability and usefulness.
    – Mazura
    Feb 22, 2016 at 7:49
  • @Mazura When being upvoted is inevitable, just sit back and enjoy it. I decided to regard the criticisms of my first answer, which the OP did not choose (I gave him two options), and the entire Q&As as a sociology lesson.
    – ab2
    Feb 22, 2016 at 16:12
  • Ask me how many times this has been upvoted today...
    – Mazura
    Feb 22, 2016 at 16:15
  • @Mazura Tell me your secret! You must be emitting electronic pheromones! And it is so unfair to Ward, who also posted umpteenth.
    – ab2
    Feb 22, 2016 at 19:21

"umpteen," meaning a large but unspecified number or "umpteenth," meaning the latest in a long series would work:

"She reloaded the gun umpteen times."


"She was reloading the gun for the umpteenth time."

  • Thanks, but I'm looking for something more eloquent. Check the edit.
    – mathgenius
    Feb 21, 2016 at 23:25
  • +1 in an effort to reduce by a tiny bit the irrationality of the votes on this Q.
    – ab2
    Feb 22, 2016 at 21:49
  • @ab2 Thanks, but I know the "penalty" for being not-quite-the-fastest... Feb 22, 2016 at 22:23

She was reloading the gun again.

Is this usage in the character's head/internal dialogue? Simply 'again' would indicate that it is a repetitive action.

In business terminology (and math and statistics), there is the idea of marginal units, which means the next unit, as in marginal cost, marginal profit, etc. However it does not flow well with the context you have proposed.

  • Thank you, this was very close to what I was looking for, but mister and/or missus ab2 just hit the mark. :)
    – mathgenius
    Feb 22, 2016 at 2:26

Matilda hefted the handgun. After years of work she knew, simply by the weight and balance of the thing, how many bullets were left. Three. She’d need more. Of course.

She scanned the horizon as she reloaded. Casual, autonomic, an act of physical memory. As familiar and easy as brushing her hair. No effort needed. The satisfying sound of gunmetal clipping into place.

Click the magazine latch off. Dust on the Old Road, about 5 miles south.

Flick the cylinder open. Thumb it round. Shake out the spent cartridges. One movement. A truck- dust's too thick for a sedan.

Snick three bullets into the cylinder. Flick cylinder closed. Spin. One movement. In a hurry. Big hurry.

Matilda snuggled down behind the rocks. Shaded her eyes, watched as the dark shape of the vehicle formed out of the heat shimmer. Rehearsed the hit.

  • This answer would be better suited to writers.SE. At English.SE we talk about the language. For this question, a good answer would suggest a word, with a definition for it from a (hopefully reputable) source, and a link to that source. An example usage of the word may be included.
    – AndyT
    Feb 22, 2016 at 11:12
  • 3
    Sorry. I thought I did provide an answer to the needs of the original questioner, who asked for an eloquent way to express an idea.I assumed he wasn't looking for a replacement word or two. I gave an example (loosely based on Cormac McCarthy) of how a writer should suggest an idea through the setting, and the actions of his character, rather than simply describing what happens. Show, not tell. Feb 22, 2016 at 12:58
  • 1
    If you could place in bold the one word or phrase which suggests most strongly someone loading a gun in a repetitive mechanical way, as if in auto pilot the answer would then be quite good. You have answered the OP's request for something "elegant", but no doubt they are looking for a short phrase or expression not three or four short paragraphs. Oh, you can use the "auto-pilot" if you like, and if it helps.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 22, 2016 at 14:51

You could consider using "over and over (again)" if you want to emphasize the repetition of the action for unspecific times. Over and over means:

Again and again: 'doing the same thing over and over again'

Your example:

She was reloading the gun over and over.

[Oxford Online Dictionary]


I don't know if this fits well into the context, but one option to consider might be to not talk about the many times she has reloaded, but instead let that be inferred by the reader, from the way she does it: With practiced, exact movements, she reloaded the gun.

  • Thank you for your feedback! This is, indeed, a valid point, however I insist on keeping my approach this time. And I do not wish to offend you, but your answer seems more like an advice of changing the wording altogether, rather than giving and answer to my question. If I am correct, english.SE is about the English language and not the way of writing, in general.
    – mathgenius
    Feb 22, 2016 at 21:42
  • @math: Thank you for your kind words. Good to hear you know what kind of solution you need! What motivated my response was in part that I thought this might be a case of the [XY problem](xyproblem.info): although this approach is interesting from the point of view of English vocabulary, perhaps the real, underlying problem could be tackled better in another way. (Now, of course, I know better.) Moreover, reading the question again, I realize that the example sentence I gave is not a very good fit for what you described. My apologies for not reading your question more closely. Feb 24, 2016 at 11:44

Time and again she reloaded the gun.

very often: 'Time and again I have had to remind my son to study before going out with his friends.'

[Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms]

  • Welcome to English Language & Usage. This answer was flagged as low-quality because of its length and content. I have edited your post and please try to follow the format next time. Please take the tour and visit our help center for additional guidance.
    – user140086
    Feb 22, 2016 at 14:26

If you don't mind introducing a tinge of tiresomeness in the repetition, Ad Nauseam is a fit for what you've described

referring to something that has been done or repeated so often that it has become annoying or tiresome

e.g. She was reloading and firing the gun Ad Nauseam

Again, there's an element of unpleasantness here, indicating that she's performed the action to the point of irritation

  • Thank you, that is certainly an interesting point, however the exact nature of the adnauseam must be avoided in my case, since the persona is neither tired not annoyed by the action. :)
    – mathgenius
    Feb 22, 2016 at 21:44

Something which a subject has done many times, and will do many times again, is quite possibly habitual:

While we cannot say:

She habitually loaded the gun.

because that refers to the habitual behavior as such, without making it clear that the action is going on now, we can express that with a more complicated construct:

She performed her habitual gun loading.

(She loaded her gun now, as she has many times before and will do again.)

The "as usual" phrase expresses something similar, more succinctly:

She loaded the gun, as usual.

We can also involve the word ritual, which refers to a sequence of repeated actions. If something is a ritual, it has been carried out many times before, and will likely be carried out many times again:

She performed her gun reloading ritual.

Something that is more of a personal habit can be characteristic.

He dismissed the visitor with his characteristic hand wave.

(He has a particular hand wave that he has used before and will do again.)

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