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Origin of goose pimples

First recorded in 1885–90

OTHER WORDS FROM goose pimples

goose-pimply, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What are goose pimples?

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

It’s also called gooseflesh and 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 pimples.

Another way of saying you have goose pimples is to say that your hair is standing on end. Goose pimples 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 pimples aren’t actually pimples, though they affect the same parts of the skin.

Goose pimples are most commonly associated with their appearance due to cold or scary situations, but you can also get goose pimples 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 pimples. Similar terms are the creeps, the heebie-jeebies, and the willies.

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

Where do goose pimples come from?

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

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 pimples 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 pimples in response to being scared has led to the term hair-raising to describe a frightening experience. Biologically speaking, goose pimples 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.

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What are some synonyms for goose pimples?

literal:

figurative:

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

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

How is goose pimples used in real life?

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

 

 

Try using goose pimples!

Which of the following things can trigger goose pimples?

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

Example sentences from the Web for goose pimples

  • An' he jes cogitate', “Dey ain't no ghosts,” an' wish' he goose-pimples don't rise up dat way.

    Humorous Ghost Stories|Dorothy Scarborough
  • An' he jes cogitate, "Dey ain't no ghosts," an' wish he goose-pimples don't rise up dat way.

  • An' he jes cogitate', "Dey ain't no ghosts," an' wish' he goose-pimples don't rise up dat way.

  • I dimly knew about that period, but Barbara explained it in a way that made me get goose-pimples.

    Little Brother|Cory Doctorow

Idioms and Phrases with goose pimples

goose pimples

Also, goose bumps or flesh. Temporary rough skin caused by small raised bumps. For example, Horror movies always give me goose pimples, or She tends to get goose bumps whenever she goes to the dentist. This expression likens the skin of a plucked goose to the condition of human skin when a person is cold or afraid. [Early 1800s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.