• synonyms


or la·ta

  1. a pattern of neurotic behavior, usually induced by a startle, first discovered in Malaya, and characterized by the compulsive imitation of the actions and words of others.
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Origin of latah

Borrowed into English from Malay around 1880–85
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for latah

Historical Examples

  • More than one-half of the cereal crop in 1905 was produced in the prairie and plateau region of Nez Perce and Latah counties.

    Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 14, Slice 3


  • I'll go if you wish it; though I tell you again, you're backing the wrong man, and soonah or latah you'll discover it.

  • In point of fact, I don't mind telling yah, I back myself still for a couple of thou' soonah or latah to marry yah.

  • The sailor then throws the piece of wood on to the deck, and the latah promptly follows suit with the baby (Guinon).

  • I has plowed an' I has sowed, an' latah on I has laid cyahpets, an' I has whitewashed.

British Dictionary definitions for latah


  1. a psychological condition, observed esp in Malaysian cultures, in which an individual, after experiencing a shock, becomes anxious and suggestible, often imitating the actions of another person
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Word Origin

C19: from Malay
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

latah in Medicine


  1. A nervous disorder characterized by an exaggerated physical response to being startled or to unexpected suggestion.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.