Shall we descend into the world of onomatopoeia? Words that sound like the sound they define! Some may groan, but this is an interesting class of words to writers, and these words follow interesting patterns. Did you know sounds that start in the back of the throat often begin with the gr- sound, so we get words like growl, grunt, even giggle? And sounds made with the lips often start with mu- or bl- like mumble, blurt, and of course murmur.
So, let's take a deeper look: Webster's defines murmur as a half-suppressed or muttered complaint, grumbling; or, a low indistinct but often continuous sound, or a soft or gentle utterance.
It's origin is intricate, and incredible, starting in the late 14th century, and perhaps as old as 12th century, from the Old French verb "murmurer" meaning "grouse or grumble" and "rumbling noise" in noun form. It likely originated in reduplication, or repetition of the root "mur" to emphasize the sound. Around the world, the word repeated itself, and even took hold in Sanskrit where it appears to be the "source also of Sanskrit murmurah crackling fire," according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. See for yourself:
murmur (n.) -- late 14c., "expression of discontent by grumbling," from Old French murmure "murmur, sound of human voices; trouble, argument" (12c.), noun of action from murmurer "to murmur," from Latin murmurare "to murmur, mutter," from murmur(n.) "a hum, muttering, rushing," probably from a PIE reduplicative base *mor-mor, of imitative origin (source also of Sanskrit murmurah "crackling fire," Greek mormyrein "to roar, boil," Lithuanian murmlenti "to murmur"). Meaning "softly spoken words" is from 1670s.
Great stuff, and the plethora of words that mean murmur, or diverge from that word's roots is just gorgeous. If you have time, I highly recommend checking them all out at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=Murmur
My particular favorites are grutch, grudge which mean "to murmur, complain" and begrudge. Then there's mutter. And, I find myself really wanting to use the adjective/adverb forms, murmurous and murmurously -- each just has an exquisite sound. Of course, gerund forms and mass nouns like murmuring and murmaration -- as in a murmaration of starlings (see photo) -- have also taken root now, meaning a group of things making a murmur.
And lastly, there's sussurus, a younger word that means a murmuring (or rustling, whispering) sound, comes from the Latin susurrare to whisper, adjective form is susurrant.
So, get out there, murmur your plots until your novel, like a sussarant fan, creates winds of change!
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