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or wa-wa

[wah-wah] /ˈwɑˌwɑ/
producing a muted, bawling sound like that of a trumpet with the hand moved momentarily over the bell:
a wah-wah effect on a synthesizer; a guitar with a wah-wah pedal.
a sound or effect like the muted sound of a trumpet, especially in music.
an electronic device or attachment to produce such a sound, often used with an electric guitar.
Origin of wah-wah
First recorded in 1925-30; imitative Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for wah-wah


the sound made by a trumpet, cornet, etc, when the bell is alternately covered and uncovered: much used in jazz
an electronic attachment for an electric guitar, etc, that simulates this effect
Word Origin
C20: of imitative origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for wah-wah

1926, in jazz slang, in reference to the effect on brass instruments made by manipulating the mute; of imitative origin. Later also in reference to an electric guitar effect. As an imitation of the sound of a baby crying, it is recorded from 1938. Wah-wah pedal is recorded from 1969. Cf. Chinook jargon wawa "talk, speak, call, ask, sermon, language;" Cree (Algonquian) wehwew "goose," Lenape (Algonquian) wava "snow goose," all probably of imitative origin.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for wah-wah



: By passing his vocal sounds through an amplifier with the aid of a wah-wah pedal, he has achieved spectacular effects/ Mike McCready's wahwah pedaling?


  1. A pronounced wavering, scooping sound from an instrument, the voice, etc: imitations of animal sounds such as wah-wahs on trumpets and trombones/ Then Wah-Wah Waddy breaks into his est funkadeli solo (1920s+ Musicians)
  2. pedal-operated electronic device for producing wah-wahs, esp on electric guitars: the same kind of highly-perfected control over use of the wah-wah, distortion, and amplifier

[echoic; interestingly similar to Chinook jargon wawa, ''speech, talk,'' and to Cree wawa, an echoic name for the snow goose, Canada goose, and gray goose]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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