The Etymology Of The Word "Hiccough"

Estimated reading time: 2 minute(s)

In response to a request for the origin of the word “hiccough”… here’s one thing I found. I found it on the internet, so take it for what it’s worth. Do some more research before you accept it as completely true. 🙂

Take Our Word For It

Page two, Words to the Wise:

“From Lee Daniel Quinn:

I’ve been deprived all my life.  When I get hiccups, all I do is ‘hic’!  Are there some people who actually ‘hiccup’?  Or perhaps, as in the case of ‘throw up’, it means to ‘hic’ up?

That’s a good guess!  However, if we take a look at the word’s earlier forms, we find hickock and then hicket.  These suggest a derivation from French hoquet, which is a diminutive form of of the sound made when one hiccups.  So a hiccup is, etymologically, a ‘little hic’ (the hic being imitative of the sound made when one hiccups)!  The earliest English form (1544) evolved into the current English form in this fashion: hicket, hickot, hickock, hickop, hiccup, hiccough.   

Note that hiccough is the last in the series.  It was invented, erroneously, because someone apparently thought that cough should be part of a hiccup!

The hoquet form survives as the musical term hocket.  This is where members of a group of musicians take turns in playing the notes of a melody.  Unless this is performed with great skill it sounds like a series of hiccups.”

And one more, from


1580, hickop, earlier hicket, hyckock, considered imitative of the sound of hiccupping (cf. Fr. hoquet, Dan. hikke, etc.); modern spelling first recorded 1788; hiccough (1626) is by mistaken association with cough. Replaced O.E. ælfsogoða, so called because hiccups were thought to be caused by elves.

Interesting… 🙂


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