5

Chortle is a very common synonym for 'laugh', although arguably more specific in the type of laugh. I've been ignoring this word for some time since whenever I think I finally know how to use it I see another definition which makes me wonder how it's different to the generic 'laugh'.

The explanation that makes most sense to me is that chortle is a combination of a 'chuckle' and a 'snort'. Therefore: a quieter/subdued laugh with the mouth closed, and the air escaping the nose (snort) rather than the mouth.

Now the reason I'm breaking this down to such an nth degree, is for characters, the way they express themselves is important. For example, if a character cackles rather than laughs you'd assume they're either evil or crazy or both. So apart from the definition above I have two further queries to break this down:

  1. Some definitions suggest to chortle means you have a level of glee, pleasure or satisfaction. What I'm wondering is, since laughing generally has those anyway, does this mean that to chortle you have an excess amount of this, as in similar to a happily evil cackle? Or is chortle considered less subdued?
  2. Secondly, my understanding is that this is not the same as a snorting laugh, which is louder and used more for humour?
  3. I am also thinking that this is not the same as snarfing a laugh, or trying to stop laughter by closing your mouth which can lead to a chortle if it is too hard to control

Anyway, looking for to some insight into this elusively defined word. I look forward to your suggestions.

Here is the best example I was able to find of a chortle. In the beginning of the video everyone is snarfing their laughs, but by this point they give up and resort to a full on chortle instead, but still maintain enough respect to not do an open mouthed laugh.

1
  • I associate chortle with basement-dwelling Internet trolls. I would personally be offended to have someone describe my laugh as a chortle instead of laugh or chuckle.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Dec 18 '20 at 18:33
8

Actually Lexico defines chortle as “Laugh in a noisy, gleeful way.”

and Dictionary.com points out that:

There are many different kinds of laughter. There’s the kind that leaves us clutching our bellies and gasping for air, and there’s kind that barely escapes our lips in restrained titters. The chortle, defined as “a gleeful chuckle,” falls somewhere in the middle.

Verne’s chortle: video

The Grammarist defines its origin, meaning and usage:

Chortle is a word that first appeared in 1871 in a children’s book, it means a satisfied chuckle or the act of chuckling in a satisfied manner.

Chortle is a portmanteau, which is a word that is composed by blending the sounds and the meaning of two different words. In this case, chortle is a mash-up of the words chuckle and snort.

The word chortle was coined by Lewis Carroll and first used in his novel Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. It is a sequel to his celebrated children’s book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In Through the Looking-Glass, Alice encounters Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Humpty Dumpty, the White Knight and of course, the Red Queen.

Chortle may be used as a noun or as an intransitive verb, which is a verb that does not take an object. Related words are chortles, chortled, chortling, chortler.

Usage examples:

When asked if she ever entertained thoughts of getting a little offensive glory for herself, the rest of the close-knit Crusaders chortled. (The Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“I walked in here this morning and Babs and Ty were at the breakfast table,” chortled Marner. (The Toronto Sun)

The waitress – after commenting on how cute Mary was, to which I responded in hilarious fashion, ‘yes, she takes after me’ (how she chortled) – showed us to our table. (The Blackpool Gazette)

Last month’s announcement that Masterton had been declared New Zealand’s Most Beautiful City was the cue for much chortling and guffawing at my expense. (The Dominion Post)

8
  • Is it just me or does the Lexico's use of "noisy" in the definition contradict Dictionary.com's and Grammarist's hinting of suppressed laughter?
    – FrontEnd
    Dec 18 '20 at 12:32
  • 2
    @FrontEnd The two definitions do not contradict each other - you can suppress a snort/laughter and still be noisy while doing so. Even the act of suppression can be noisy in and on itself.
    – mishan
    Dec 18 '20 at 15:52
  • I thought it first appeared in the jabberwocky! Is that not right. poetryfoundation.org/poems/42916/jabberwocky
    – Anush
    Dec 18 '20 at 16:12
  • @Anush: The poem Jaberwocky is actually from Alice Through The Looking Glass.
    – psmears
    Dec 18 '20 at 16:31
  • @Anush The children's book referred to is indeed AttLG Dec 18 '20 at 16:49

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.