What Does The Cricket Really Say?

I had an interesting question via email from a reader.

I suppose this has something to do with a) interest in the way people who speak different languages name the sounds animals make b) the coming of summer.

QUAERITUR: What is the Latin for the sounds crickets make?

Good question.

In English we say, I think, that crickets "chirp".

But birds also "chirp".  They tweet as well, which gave rise to my saying that I send out "pipata" via Twitter.  (Latin pipata, or "tweets" from pipio "to twitter, chirp").  Follow me on Twitter, btw.

But crickets do something else.

In Latin a cricket is a gryllus or variously grillus.  In Italian we still say grillo.

The preferred verb used by ancient writers (cf. Pliny, Catullus) for the chirping of a cricket is strideoGrylli strident.

Your personal copy of the mighty Lewis & Short Dictonary divulges with just a few flips of its invaluable pages that strideo means "to make or utter any harsh, shrill, hissing, whistling, grating, or creaking sound; to creak, hiss, whizz, whistle, rattle, buzz".

TwitterThe verb strideo calls to mind the harrowing image brought given us by the Lord Himself who said, of those who wind up on the wrong side of judgment, that they will wind up in a place where – in the darkness – there is the sound of weeping and stridor dentium… the creaking sound made when you grind your teeth together… very hard.  Fletus et stridor dentium. Luke 13.

But back to our happy little crickets who strident all the time, and even tell us the temperature.

A cricket or grasshopper or cicacda, all of whom strident, are described in the act of chirping with the adjectives argutus… arguti, or even garruli.   Garruli strident grylli, ut nobis de calore nuntient.

So, that, friends, is that about the sound crickets make in Latin.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Peter from Jersey says:

    This is one for the Recusant Cricket Club surely.

  2. wanda says:

    How do crickets tell us the temperature? Inquiring minds want to know.

  3. Patikins says:


    Crickets chirp faster as it gets hotter:

    cool, huh?

  4. UbiCaritas says:

    Of course, if the grillos are particularly tuneful, they sound like this.

  5. Andrew says:

    Too bad our dictionaries are arranged alphabetically: would be useful to have them arranged thematically, such as:

    Gryllus grillat: Philomela modulatur: Aquila clangit: Accipiter pipat: corvus crocitat, crocit, corniculat. Perdix cacabat: Anser, gratitat, glacitat: Cycnus drensat. Turtur et Columba gemunt: Palumbes plausitat: Ciconia gloterat. Gallus cucurrit: Gallina gracillat, glocit: glocitat. Pavo pupillat: Grus gruit, Vultur pulpat. Graeculus frigulat: Milvius lipit, lugit. Anas tetrinit: hirundo trinsat. Passer pipit: Sturnus pisitat. Turdus trutilat: Acredula mittat. Coturnix grylissat: Galgulus glocitat. Merula stridet vel modulatur: Upupa popissat. Meleagris caccissat: Vespertilio stridet. Pica picatur: Cuculus cuculat. Bubo bubulat: Noctua cucubat. Ulula ululat: Buteo bubit. Regulus zinzilutat, Parus tinninat. Sus grunnit , ovis balat , serpens sibilat , rana coaxat , canis baubat vel latrat , vulpes gannit.

    There’s a lot more but for brevity’s sake I’ll skip’m.
    Gold Star!

  6. liongules says:

    According to my French mother-in-law, may she rest in peace, a duck says “quank, quank” not quack, quack, and roosters crow “cut-cut-cadeck!”

  7. wanda says:

    Patikins, Yes, very cool. Who knew? We’re never too old to learn something new.
    Thank you for the reply & the cricket link.

  8. The Cobbler says:


    ‘According to my French mother-in-law, may she rest in peace, a duck says “quank, quank” not quack, quack, and roosters crow “cut-cut-cadeck!” ‘
    The sound ducks actually make is as close to “Frank” as it is to “quack”. It’s actually nearly identical to saying “Frank” in a creaky/nasally voice and then cutting off the F and the K. Rehng rehng rehng!

  9. Traductora says:

    “Grillo” is also the Spanish word for “cricket.” I once attended a concert in Madrid that included experimental music from the 1920s, during which time it was popular in vanguard circles for a performer to come out and declaim some odd bit of poetry while an instrumentalist plonked away behind her. The concert in question featured a black-clad woman who stood in a dramatic pose in front of the piano and recited in a rather sepulchral voice, “Estribillo, estribillo, estribillo / es el canto del grillo.” Estribillo means refrain or chorus. And when I thought about it, that’s exactly what the song of a cricket is: a constant refrain.

  10. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Delightful! And thanks to the erudite Andrew!

    This (including comments)reminds me of the song ‘To Kokoraki’ as performed on the Flanders and Swann album ‘At the Drop of a Hat’ by Donald Swann, and there attributed to “Corinthios-Petri”. (It can be sampled at Amazon.uk and apparently purchased as mp3 download; searching for ‘To Kokoraki’ on You-Tube reveals what look to be various (non-Swann) amateur and professional performances, though I have no idea what the copyright situation is…)

  11. John V says:

    I suppose this has something to do with a) interest in the way people who speak different languages name the sounds animals make b) the coming of summer.

    Not quite so innocent. Looks like Jeff Miller, a/k/a The Curt Jester, put the Latin lesson to use for a faux coat of arms for Archbishop Niederauer. See the full text of the post for his explanation.

  12. Andrew says:

    Erudite? No. I am pretty good at copy and paste, however. This was mostly taken from “Sancti Isidori Hispalensis Episcopi differentiarum libri duo”. A very interesting book full of acute observations.

    The Bible text is also replete with animal sounds. Donkeys, oxen, lions, horses and others are featured in various book of the Old Testament. Also a lion roars in the Apocalypse.

  13. kelleyb says:

    Thanks for the El Grillo link. Wonderful song.
    God Bless

  14. Rob in Maine says:

    In medicine, the term Stridor refers to “a high pitched sound resulting from turbulent air flow in the upper airway.”

  15. teomatteo says:


  16. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    My belated thanks to Andrew: I did not know the works of St. Isidore were on-line and never thought to search!(nor did I recognized the source…)

    “Pavo pupillat”. “Pavo the Peacock is named after his voice”, translates T.H. White in his ‘Bestiary’ (1954) but, alas, does not explain why his 12th-c. Author says that. (I have not yet turned my feeble on-line skills to trying to discover if the MS. CUL II.4.26 or M.R. James’s – or any more recent – edition, is on internet.) What got me thinking about Pavo again was recalling some English-language version I once saw of one of Anouilh’s plays where a character is named ‘Leon'(or ‘Leo’?) and the peacocks seem to call or cry his name.

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