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Definition: a hangover, distress, or a discordant clamor.

Pronunciation: kats-en-jam-er


1849.  This word is comprised of the German “katzen” (plural of “katze”) for cat and “jammer” for discomfort or distress.

Why this word?

The onomatopoetic properties of the word “katzenjammer” are what appeal to me the most.  To me, the word conjures the image of cats discordantly jamming, an image which is anything but peaceful and serene.  The last thing one wants during a hangover is the sound of nails on a chalkboard.  Yet that is what I imagine a band of cats playing would sound like.  The image is simultaneously funny and painful, much as a cat stumbling across the piano keys would be.

Plus, despite the somewhat dour meaning, it’s a fun word to say.

How to use the word katzenjammer in a sentence?

“The kids were making such a katzenjammer in the backseat that I missed the exit, swerved, nearly hit a police car, and was pulled over.”

“That katzenjammer outside this morning was caused by the garbage truck colliding with the fire truck.”

“The katzenjammer surrounding the recent elections reflected the state of internal distress in this country rather than a discord necessary to bring about change.”


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Written by Kate Fulton

Kate Fulton has a bachelor’s degree in classics and psychology from the University of Massachusetts and is working on a library science degree from Simmons College. She has always been fascinated by words- their usage, spelling, and etymology. Kate may be one of the few people who enjoyed the verbal section of the SAT. Yes, she is a word geek. Currently she bores her husband and young daughter with her love of vocabulary.


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