[ haw-rip-uh-ley-shuhn, ho- ]
/ hɔˌrɪp əˈleɪ ʃən, hɒ- /
Save This Word!

a bristling of the hair on the skin from cold, fear, etc.; goose bumps.
Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
Question 1 of 6
Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?

Origin of horripilation

First recorded in 1650–60; from Late Latin horripilātiōn- (stem of horripilātiō ); see horripilate, -ion
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does horripilation mean?

Horripilation is a technical term for what happens when your hair stands up, such as when you’re cold, scared, or excited.

We popularly call this goose bumps (or goose pimples, gooseflesh, or goose skin). Other technical names for it are piloerection and cutis anserina.

Horripilation 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, such as on a dog or cat, we say they’ve raised their hackles.)

The same thing happens in humans, and is usually most noticeable in places where we don’t have much hair or the hair is very fine, such as the arms and neck.

The verb horripilate means to trigger horripilation—to give someone goose bumps, as in Horror movies have the power to horripilate the viewer. It can also mean to experience horripilation—to get goose bumps.

Example: A well-known example of horripilation in animals is the raising of a porcupine’s quills.

Where does horripilation come from?

The first records of the word horripilation come from the 1600s. It comes from the Late Latin horripilātiō, “a bristling.” The first part comes from the Latin verb horrēre, “to stand on end,” “to tremble,” or “to bristle with fear.” The second part comes from the Latin pilus, meaning “hair” (the pilo- part of piloerection can be traced back to the same root). The word horror (and related words like horrific and horrifying) also derives from horrēre and is based on hair standing on end due to fear.

Horripilation in response to being scared has led to the term hair-raising to describe a frightening experience. Biologically speaking, horripilation is an involuntary reaction called 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. These bumps are said to resemble those on the skin of a goose that has had its feathers plucked, hence the name goose bumps.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to horripilation?

What are some synonyms for horripilation?

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

What are some words that often get used in discussing horripilation?


How is horripilation used in real life?

Horripilation is a technical term. In everyday conversation, people usually just say goose bumps or similar terms.



Try using horripilation!

Which of the following things can trigger horripilation?

A. fear
B. cold
C. excitement
D. all of the above

How to use horripilation in a sentence

  • The boy who saved her, the boy with the jolly tongue in his head, humorous amid the “horripilation,” had addressed it as Dad.

    Pemrose Lorry, Camp Fire Girl|Isabel Katherine Hornibrook
  • It seemed by its thorns to be in a state of perpetual horripilation, and by its roaming black antelopes to be rolling its eyes.

    The Kath Sarit Sgara|Somadeva Bhatta
  • But, suddenly, through all the horripilation there seemed to shine a light.

    Pemrose Lorry, Camp Fire Girl|Isabel Katherine Hornibrook

British Dictionary definitions for horripilation

/ (hɒˌrɪpɪˈleɪʃən) /

noun physiol
a technical name for goose flesh
the erection of any short bodily hairs

Word Origin for horripilation

C17: from Late Latin horripilātiō a bristling, from Latin horrēre to stand on end + pilus hair
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

Medical definitions for horripilation

[ hô-rĭp′ə-lāshən, hŏ- ]

The bristling of body hair, as from cold; goose bumps.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.