Sometimes people who are just coming off of bout of crying take what could be described as a stuttering inhalation. It's more easily observed with little kids than adults.

Is there a better word for that?

  • For some reason I came up with the word "bedumming" for when my baby sister did that. No clue where I got it from though. (Does it say bad things about me that this happened enough for me to need a word for it?)
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 16 '11 at 19:13
  • I would say this is general reference: ehow.com/info_8384693_causes-double-breathing-after-crying.html Nov 16 '11 at 19:45
  • 3
    He's not asking for a synonym for crying, folks, but for a specific type of breathing/inhalation. Sheesh. What's with the trigger-happy closings these days?
    – Marthaª
    Nov 17 '11 at 0:08
  • 3
    I don't understand the problem with this question, aside from being fairly simple.
    – JeffSahol
    Nov 17 '11 at 0:54
  • 1
    Happy to cast the deciding vote for reopening. If nobody can come up with a good answer (and I'm not in agreement with the accepted one), then in my book it is most certianly not a general reference question.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 17 '11 at 16:44

11 Answers 11


Sobbing is how I would say it.

Edit: actually, M-W backs me up on this:

1 a : to catch the breath audibly in a spasmodic contraction of the throat

1 b : to cry or weep with convulsive catching of the breath

  • 1
    Well, again drawing upon my expertise as a big brother (reformed), sobbing is something different, and in fact includes crying. So I disagree with the accept on this.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 17 '11 at 16:46
  • 2
    I thought the same thing, that it mainly meant crying along with the breath-catching thing...until I read the 1a definition, which seemed to indicate the noise is the main thing, but other definitions are more about crying. In any case, though, there is no specific word for making that sound without weeping first (or during).
    – JeffSahol
    Nov 17 '11 at 17:37
  • Perhaps you are right. However, if I see "sobbing" in a sentence without a whole lot of context implying otherwise around it, it's pretty much certian I will assume the "1b" meaning. So if you want to be clear that there wasn't any actual crying going on anymore, it would be tough to make this word do the job.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 17 '11 at 19:09
  • I can't recall which book it was, much less the exact spot, but I do recall reading something like "she dragged the still sobbing child along with her" several times. So, with the fact of "after crying, not crying any more, but still, well, breathing spasmically with the occasional sniff" actually described. I think "sobbing" matches perfectly.
    – skymningen
    Jul 19 '13 at 10:01

I believe shuddering sob is the common term.

Long shuddering sobs were heard, cries, and deep sighs. Think how surprised everyone was when, on raising the sheets, they discovered Pinocchio half melted in tears!

A surprising number of references turn up when you Google the phrase.

  • Voting this up because I think it is closest. My only problem with it is that the sob itself isn't the subject of the question, just the shudder.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 17 '11 at 16:49

These breaths could be referred to as gasps (similar to when someone is barely above water, but about to drown).

  • Gasps was my first choice but I was hoping for something different since there's a different emotional element at work. In my head gasping is more about shock than weariness.
    – E.Beach
    Nov 16 '11 at 19:30

I think "hitching" could work.

  • 2
    Hello and welcome! This is an interesting suggestion, but I'm not sure it would be understood. Can you offer any examples or other evidence backing it up? May 21 '13 at 23:31

"Shuddering breath" is one description I have heard for the condition described as experiencing a few short involuntary breaths right at the end of taking a deeper inhalation breath. As stated above, a shuddering breath can often be observed towards the end of crying in children, or crying infants.

I have also heard this type of breathing referred to as triple breathing in western medicine, but I don't know if there is an explanation associated with this description.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine I believe there may also be a term for this type of involuntary shudder breathing for adults. It may be a symptom or a diagnostic indicator for something else that may be going on in the body.


The answer is CATCHING ones breath, to catch ones breath; The breath is dropped and recovered.


CHOKING may be one of the answers. Refer choked


I was looking for exactly what you've asked for here in a story I'm writing, I ended up using "I put my hands over my mouth to hush my shuddering gasps even though I’d stopped crying..."


The phrase quivering lips is sometimes used to describe the moment just before tears.

Edit: I like E. Beach's suggestion of quivering gasps.

  • This isn't what OP is asking for.
    – user11550
    Nov 16 '11 at 19:14
  • It may be useful depending on the reason the OP asked the question. In the event where the OP's direct question is unanswerable this may be satisfactory.
    – ChrisM
    Nov 16 '11 at 19:18
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    Thanks for the contribution. Quivering is an interesting word and may capture the emotional state better than anything else. Maybe quivering gasps?
    – E.Beach
    Nov 16 '11 at 19:25

I have always called the breathe spasms after a bout of crying 'cup-cups'. A Google search shows zero hits so it must be time to invent a new word.


Breath-holding spells

A breath holding spell (BHS) is a reflexive response that occurs in some healthy young children, usually between the ages of about eight months and two years. A typical breath holding spell lasts between two and 20 seconds. The child cries or gasps, forcibly exhales, stops breathing, and turns either blue (cyanotic form) or pale (pallid form).

Read more: http://www.healthofchildren.com/B/Breath-Holding-Spells.html

Edit Wikipedia confirms that BHS is a recognized term, and for what it's worth I consider it a more accurate description for a "specific kind of inhalation after crying" than sobbing.

The second type are the Cyanotic breath-holding spells. They are usually precipitated by anger or frustration although they may occur after a painful experience. The child cries and has forced expiration sometimes leading to cyanosis (blue in color), loss of muscle tone, and loss of consciousness. The majority of children will regain consciousness. The child usually recovers within a minute or two, but some fall asleep for an hour or so. [...] Treatment The most important approach is to reassure the family, because witnessing a breath-holding spell is a frightening experience for observers. There is no definitive treatment available or needed for breath-holding spells, as the child will eventually outgrow them.

  • Though the information in your answer is no doubt useful, I don't find it relevant to the OP's question.
    – TecBrat
    Jul 18 '14 at 17:43
  • So nice of Bea to pay a fat bounty for your question :)
    – user66974
    Jul 18 '16 at 19:06

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