What's a Brouhaha?

Learn the meaning of this onomatopoetic word.

Mignon Fogarty
1-minute read


Last week, ESPN fired Curt Schilling because of offensive remarks he made on social media, and in his follow-up statement, Schilling referred to the brouhaha, but he misspelled the word as brew ha ha, like the name of a beerfest in my hometown. In an article the next day, New York Times writer Daniel Victor threw some subtle shade at Schilling by writing

“This latest brew ha ha is beyond hilarious,” he wrote of the brouhaha.

with the misspelling in the quotation and the correct spelling in he wrote of the brouhaha. This incited a small round of delight on Twitter, Eric Rauchway, for example, wrote, “This might be my favorite sentence ever.”

But brouhaha is an odd word. When I look at it, I can’t immediately identify a root or origin, so I decided to look it up. 

Brouhaha refers to a commotion or an uproar, and some sources call brouhaha an imitative word, meaning it represents the sounds you would hear during a commotion or an uproar.

Other sources say that in the Middle Ages brou, ha, ha was a cry used by French-speaking actors playing the devil. Some say the cry was specific to players representing the devil disguised as clergy, and that brou, ha, ha comes from the Hebrew phrase barukh habba, which was an announcement made in synagogues that means "blessed be the one who comes [in the name of the Lord]."

Either way, English speakers adopted brouhaha from the French in the late 1800s.

This article was originally published November 16, 2011 and updated April 27, 2016.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.

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