10 Words for Bodily Functions and Actions

By Mark Nichol

No, this list isn’t just for those in the medical profession. Many readers find sesquipedalianism — use of overly complicated words when a simpler synonym is available — irritating, but ostentatious vocabulary has its place in invective, satire, and standard-issue humor, and can enhance general prose, whether through figurative or literal use.

1. Borborygmus: rumbling (“What I thought was the rumbling of a truck was only a bout of borborygmus in my stomach”)

2. Emesis: vomiting (“I turned away in disgust from the vile rhetorical emesis of the racist orator”)

3. Eructation: belching (“The smokestacks engaged in endless eructation”)

4. Ingurgitation: guzzling (“We gazed in disbelief at the rampant ingurgitation occurring among the frat boys arrayed around the keg”)

5. Mastication: chewing (“The students, engrossed in the mental mastication required of the assignment, failed to notice my entrance”)

6. Micturation: urinating (“They’re micturating over all that we honor and respect”)

7. Osculation: kissing (“The odious osculation that takes place between politics and big business will never cease”)

8. Peristalsis: swallowing (“They accepted the lies with peristaltic enthusiasm — hook, line, and sinker”)

9. Sternutation: sneezing (“His incessant explosions of sternutation were unsettling”)

10. Tussis: coughing (“John produced gratuitous tussis to signal his extreme skepticism”)

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8 Responses to “10 Words for Bodily Functions and Actions”

  • Dale A. Wood

    Peristalsis is not merely swallowing.
    Perstalsis refers to the whole action, via smooth muscle contractions, of moving food and solid wastes through the esophagus, the stomach, the small intestines, and the small intestines.
    I learned this in science class way back in the 7th grade in a public school in Alabama, of all places, and not in a private school somewhere like Maryland, Philadelphia, New York, or California.
    The series of muscle contractions in the alimentary canal are called “peristaltic waves”, too.
    Where were you in junior high school?
    D.A.W.

  • Grace

    I believe the noun form of ‘micturate’ is ‘micturition’, not ‘micturation’. Or maybe that’s a British English thing, though usually the OED would tell me that. Just sayin’. 🙂

  • Roberta B.

    @Dale A. Wood – I agree with your definition and thought the same thing when reading it described above, but not enough to comment until I saw your editorial remark. I also learned it way back, maybe in a public junior high science class……………in California, BTW. There are a lot of people in this State, plenty of which are intelligent, reasonable, and well-educated. Unfortunately, I think at the moment we’re outnumbered.

  • Curtis

    An indispensable list for steam-punk writers!

  • Sally

    Exactly, Curtis!

    A lovely list – my favourite is ‘borborygmus” for the tummy rumbles.

    ‘MicturItion’ in the British commonwealth, ‘micturAtion’ in the US.

    And there is always the colloquial expression “reverse peristalsis” for “throwing up”!

  • thebluebird11

    1. “Micturition” is the word we use here in the US as well; I have never seen “micturation.”
    2. Peristalsis is not swallowing; it is the rhythmic and coordinated contraction and relaxation of muscle to propel things in a particular direction through various body tracts (esophagus, intestines, ureters). Actually, if you want another word for the list to make it an even 11, you can add “deglutition,” which is the medical word for swallowing. There is a condition called achalasia, in which peristalsis of the esophagus is impaired or absent.
    OK I’ll get off my box of soap LOL

  • dragonwielder

    Great list! Here’s another one that I like: expectoration (spitting out phlegm).
    I learned that one from a Disney movie, of all places! Brownie points if you know which one, and which character uses it 😀

  • thebluebird11

    Good one, dragonwielder. I am not up to your challenge…I can only guess maybe “Prince of Egypt”? Do tell!

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