Reduplicatives – Double Delight

By Sharon

Reduplicatives never travel alone. In fact, they always come in pairs and sometimes sound rather silly. These are the words formed through reduplication, when you repeat a word to form a new one, or slightly change the vowel or consonant. These are inventive and musical words and there are hundreds of them in English.

Also called ‘echo words’, there are three basic types of reduplicatives. Some repeat the word exactly, some of them use rhyme for formation while the others use vowel or consonant shift to come up with the other half of the pair. Most of them are two syllable words (four, if you count both halves of the pair), though there are some with three syllables.

This type of word formation seems to come naturally to us. Shakespeare was responsible for hurly-burly , which is still in use, as well as other reduplicatives that are rarely seen outside the plays. Recent additions to the genre include the chick-flick, a film geared towards women. Here are some common reduplicatives.

Repeating the same word:

ack-ack
aye-aye
bang-bang
beriberi
bonbon
boo-boo
bye-bye
cha-cha
choo-choo
chop chop
froufrou
goody goody
ha-ha
hush hush
muumuu
night-night
no-no
papa
pawpaw

Rhyming:

airy-fairy
argy-bargy
artsy-fartsy
boo hoo
boogie-woogie
bow-wow
easy-peasy
fuddy-duddy
hanky-panky
heebie-jeebies
helter-skelter
higgledy-piggledy
hocus-pocus
hodge-podge
hoity-toity
itsy-bitsy
jeepers creepers
mumbo-jumbo
namby-pamby
nitty gritty
okey-dokey
super-duper
willy-nilly

Vowel changes:

chit-chat
clip clop
criss-cross
dilly-dally
ding-dong
flim-flam
flip-flop
hip-hop
knick-knack
mish-mash
ping pong
pitter-patter
riff-raff
riprap
see-saw
shilly-shally
tick tock
tittle-tattle
zigzag

Feel free to add your own in the comments and check out this list for more.

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24 Responses to “Reduplicatives – Double Delight”

  • grumpyoneuk

    Regarding “reduplicatives”:

    How about “Tuk-Tuk” and “Tee-Hee” ?

  • Jaguar

    Would you include definitions with each of the reduplicatives? I’m familiar with several of them, but most I either don’t know them at all, or only have a quasi-understanding of them.

  • Alice

    How about hugger mugger?
    Does something like bric-a-brac come under this? I also wonder about slight variants, to wit, muckety muck and yakety yak.

  • Sharon Hurley Hall

    @ grumpyoneuk: Great additions, thanks.

    @ Jaguar: that would be a whole new post; I’ll get to work on it.

    @ Alice: Yes, hugger mugger fits the bill, but I’m not sure about the others – there must be a name for those, too. Time to play word detective 🙂

  • Roshawn

    I learned something new today, thanks to this site. Very nice. Would “ta-da” be included? 🙂

  • Sharon Hurley Hall

    Yes, Roshawn, that’s another good example.

  • Jaguar

    Thanks Sharon!

  • OldSailor

    Where do these words fit ? lub-dub,mama

  • Sharon Hurley Hall

    Lub dub would fit in with the rhyming reduplicatives, while mama would be a straight copy, as would papa, dada and so on, OldSailor.

  • smarty_o1

    just a teenie weenie feel about brou-ha-ha.

    no no, just a thought. i will neither create a hubbub nor a hurly-

    burly.

    ha.

  • Tom Paine

    Here’s some. Leaving dashes out. Going golfing after this. No, not Put Put.

    whoopsy doopsy
    blue flu
    do do
    poo poo
    yellow mellow
    later gator
    chill Bill (guess who)
    bees knees (old)
    wham bam
    Jeez Louise
    fat cat
    fire wire (technical)
    hip hop
    Lordy Lordy
    shock jock
    loose goose
    loosey goosey
    pop pop (Gramps)
    flower power
    ga ga (to go ga ga over…..)
    goin’ golfin’ -now!

  • Sharon Hurley Hall

    What great additions! It goes to show how much we like and use reduplicatives.

  • Michel

    Rhyme-schmyme, as long as it sounds the same 😉

  • L.

    Great stuff, Sharon!

  • Lisa Braithwaite

    And then there are all the words we add “shm” or “schm” onto in order to mock them, “fancy schmancy,” for example. Or my blog, “Speak Schmeak.” 😉

  • Matilda

    is cuck – koo one?

  • Matilda

    choowy-louie

  • Matilda

    addint to easy peasy lemon – squeezy lol 😉

  • Matilda

    adding*

  • Matilda

    shim-sham

    shoo-you

  • Matilda

    I don’t know if these will be included, but they’re so stupid, lol

    Juicy – lucy

    tutti-fruiti

  • Matilda

    wibble wobble

    ting-a-ling ?

  • Matilda

    Sorry if it looks like I’m spamming – I’m not, I just keep on thinking of some every now n then that I want to add.

  • my_honey

    is there a particular phonological rule or pattern for reduplication?

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