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Hullabaloo is a commotion, a clamorous confusion, or an uproar. The word has taken many forms over the years, including hallaballoo, hollowballoo, halloo-balloo, hallooballoo, and halloo-bo-loo (all found in the OED’s historical examples), but hullabaloo now prevails over the alternatives. The second most common spelling, hullaballoo, appears on the web only about once for every thirty instances of hullabaloo.1



The word originated in the 18th century, and it was at first mostly Scottish and Northern English.2 It may originally have been a playful rhyming extension of halloo, an interjection used to call attention and to express surprise, though this etymology is not definitively established.

Our modern spelling first appeared in the early 19th century, and it steadily gained ground until peaking in the middle 1900s. Today the word has a retro, midcentury ring, and it’s often used with at least a hint of irony that implies that the so-called hullabaloo is not really worth the excitement.


His campaign has lacked the élan, razzmatazz and hullabaloo we created on the streets of Bradford that inspired people to work for us and get out the vote. [Evening Standard]

Curiously, that clamor proved to be but a warmup for more hullabaloo over the A.P. [New York Times’s City Room blog]

Both downplayed the ongoing hullabaloo about who belongs in the Canucks crease next season, and who will be unceremoniously escorted out of town. [National Post]

While I had no problem with it, and trust the creators with their own storytelling, much hullabaloo has been made in internet circles. [Sydney Morning Herald]

There’s a lot of fun in the hullabaloo of Twitter, but if you just want to find interesting stuff, a new site called Prismatic will spare you the work of sifting through hundreds of tweets. [Atlantic]


1. Hullabaloo in the OED (subscription required)
2. Chambers Dictionary of Etymologyir?t=grammarist 20&l=as2&o=1&a=0550142304