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goose bumps

or goose·bumps

[ goos-buhmps ]
/ ˈgusˌbʌmps /
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plural noun
a rough condition of the skin, resembling that of a plucked goose, induced by cold or fear; horripilation.
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Origin of goose bumps

First recorded in 1930–35
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What are goose bumps?

Goose bumps is an informal term for what happens when your hair stands up, such as when you’re cold or scared.

It’s also commonly spelled goosebumps. It’s also called goose pimples, gooseflesh, or goose skin.

Technical terms for it are horripilation, piloerection, and cutis anserina. The verb horripilate means to trigger horripilation—to give someone goose bumps, as in Horror stories have the power to horripilate the viewer. It can also mean to experience horripilation—to get goose bumps.

Another way of saying you have goose bumps is to say that your hair is standing on end. Goose bumps are most noticeable in places where we don’t have much hair or the hair is very fine, such as the arms and neck. Sometimes, it just appears as raised bumps on the skin. These bumps are said to resemble those on the skin of a goose that has had its feathers plucked, hence the name goose bumps.

Goose bumps are most commonly associated with their appearance due to cold or scary situations, but you can also get goose bumps from being wowed by something, such as a beautiful singing performance. The term can be used in a figurative way to refer to such a feeling, similar to the chills. Or it can refer to a creepy feeling, as in That abandoned house gives me goose bumps. Similar terms are the creeps, the heebie-jeebies, and the willies.

The term is known for its use in the title of the Goosebumps series of scary stories for kids by R. L. Stine.

Example: The kids are shivering and they have goose bumps, but they still want to play outside in the cold.

Where do goose bumps come from?

The first records of the phrase goose bumps come from the 1930s. Goose pimples and gooseflesh are recorded earlier, in the 1800s, and the first records of the phrase goose skin come from the 1600s.

Interestingly, the word horror (and related words like horrific and horrifying) is based on the idea of hair standing on end due to fear. It comes from the Latin verb horrēre, meaning “to stand on end,” “to tremble,” or “to bristle with fear.” One of the technical terms for goose bumps is horripilation, and the first part of the word is based on the same root (the second part comes from the Latin pilus, meaning “hair”—which is also the basis of pilo- in piloerection).

Getting goose bumps in response to being scared has led to the term hair-raising to describe a frightening experience. Biologically speaking, goose bumps are an involuntary reaction produced by the pilomotor reflex. It involves the contraction of tiny muscles at the base of each hair follicle called arrector pili (a name that’s based on the same roots as piloerection). This contraction results in the hairs standing up. When there’s no hair there or the hairs are very small, this reaction appears as bumps on the skin.

The involuntary raising of hair doesn’t only happen in humans. When some animals get startled or threatened, their fur raises in response. When the fur becomes raised in this way on the neck of an animal, such as a dog or cat, we say they’ve raised their hackles.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to goose bumps?

  • goosebumps (alternate spelling)

What are some synonyms for goose bumps?

literal:

figurative:

What are some words that share a root or word element with goose bumps

What are some words that often get used in discussing goose bumps?

How is goose bumps used in real life?

Goose bumps are associated with being cold or scared or getting the chills from something impressive.

 

 

Try using goose bumps!

Which of the following things can trigger goose bumps?

A. fear
B. cold
C. a creepy whisper in your ear
D. all of the above

How to use goose bumps in a sentence

Medical definitions for goose bumps

goose bumps
[ gōōs ]

pl.n.
Momentary roughness of the skin caused by erection of the papillae in response to cold or fear.cutis anserina goose flesh goose pimples
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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