Word of the Week: Susurration

Last week I read PD James’ autobiography, A Time To Be In Earnest.  I came across a word I have no memory of previously meeting: susurration.

In my response to this book I wrote:

This quote is representative of her prose. I love the sibilance and onomatopoeia of susurration, a word spell-check is unfamiliar with.


I stood for a moment in complete silence broken
only by the note of a song bird and the susurration
[a soft, whispering or rustling sound] of the breeze
in the wayside grasses. It was one of those moments
of happiness and contentment which give reality to death,
since however long we have to live, there are never enough springs.

I carried this delicious word around in the pockets of my mind, taking it out, turning it over and examining it while I drove to the post office or made my bed.

I am finishing up Russell Kirk’s autobiography, The Sword of Imagination, and lo! I found the down-pillow-of-a-word again!  He writes of Clinton Wallace, a hobo whom they took into their home and lives for the last six years of Clinton’s life.

Walking the roads most of his life, Clinton Wallace had picked up in public libraries or in the lonely rooms of old hotels a tremendous fund of miscellaneous knowledge. Once he startled Kirk, in connection with some mention of change of regimes, by remarking “Arnold Toynbee writes of the susurrus of silken slippers descending the stairs, and the tramp of hobnailed boots coming up.”


7 thoughts on “Word of the Week: Susurration

  1. It really is a delightful word, Carol.  Thanks for reminding all of us.  But I have to know….. Do you wear slippers  So many wear flip flops these days and those make an entirely different noise that I fear susurration will never be resurrected.Esolen dignified modern cacaphony by callling it The Kingdom of Noise.  In such situations one would never hear whispering, murmuring, rustling.I’ll see if I can use susurrus in conversation real soon!

  2. Love it! My 8th graders just finished a unit on poetry, and my 7th graders begin one next week. I will add this word to my onomatopoeia list. What a wonderful word!I tell my students often when they are learning new and odd vocabulary words not to be surprised when one of those words crosses their path. One student popped in shortly after that and said she couldn’t believe it, but it happened! I love it!Hugs, Carol!

  3. So, I shared susurrus with my 8th graders today. They loved it. Two of them wrote it down and said “I’m going to find a way to use that word.” That’s what teaching’s all about!Then I told them the story of you and me. And our love of words. I think they were in awe. 🙂

  4.          I noticed this word, too, and had to look it up. I think PD James has a special fondness for this love, or it may be a little joke of hers, because she uses it almost every book she has written!

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