From Finnegans Wake, What is the meaning of this word? In context:

The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthur- nuk!) of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy. The great fall of the offwall entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan, erse solid man, that the humptyhillhead of humself prumptly sends an unquiring one well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes: and their upturnpikepointandplace is at the knock out in the park where oranges have been laid to rust upon the green since devlinsfirst loved livvy.

Ref: Joyce, J (1939). Finnegans Wake. MacMillian Co. Pg. 2


It's a nonce word and is used only in Finnegans Wake. I have no clue why Joyce made it so long (perhaps he wanted to catch readers' attention and persuade them to read Finnegans Wake). It's defined by Your Dictionary as:

A sound which represents the symbolic thunderclap associated with the fall of Adam and Eve.

About it's origin, YourDictionary says:

A coinage from Finnegans Wake author James Joyce said to represent the thunderclap associated with the fall of Adam and Eve. The word is a hybrid of words in many languages that relate to thunder.

From Interesting Literature:

Joyce uses the word Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk, which is meant to denote the symbolic thunderclap which accompanied the Fall of Adam and Eve (a meaning that is imbued with greater significance in light of Joyce’s lifelong fear of thunder).

It is a 101-letter word that depicts the word for thunder in various languages. There's a video on Adam Harvey's YouTube channel where he pronounces it himself and explains how to pronounce it.
He breaks it down into its constituent parts and explains what each word means and where it came from.

Here's the summary of his explanation:

  • Bababadal: It's a reference to the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9)
  • gharaghta: (Hindi) karak, gargarahat, (Arabic) ra'd: thunder.
  • kamminarronnkon: (Japanese) kaminari: thunder.
  • bron: (Greek) brontê: thunder
  • tonnerronn: (French) tonnerre: thunder.
  • tuonn: (Italian) tuonno: thunder.
  • thun: (English) thunder: thunder.
  • trovarr: (Portuguese) trovão: thunder.
  • hounawnskawn: (Swedish) åska, (Irish) scán: thunder
  • toohoohoordenen (with a bit of a stutter): (Danish) torden: thunder
  • thurnuk: (Irish) tórnach: thunder.

[Adam Harvey - YouTube]

It took me a while to transcribe in the IPA how Adam Harvey pronounced it, though I'm still sceptical about my transcription:


It's also explained in Annotations to Finnegans Wake by Roland McHugh (Google Books). Each word is explained at Finnegans Web.

The same explanation can also be found at Fweet.org:

Finnegans Wake

Faction Paradox Wiki has also used it to refer to the blaring sound of a warship (I guess):

The Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk warships (also called planet-killer warships) were piloted by praxis-enabled posthumans from the Pilots' Coterie. The name came from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, where it meant "a thunderclap so loud that it symbolises the Fall of Eden"....

There are 100+ pronunciations of this word (by people from different countries) on Pronounce Kiwi.

  • Baba and Badal sound like Hindi. Badal means cloud. Just a thought ;)
    – Ram Pillai
    Sep 4 '20 at 7:21
  • 2
    I don't know about "Joyce intentionally made it long probably to ... persuade them to read his novel". Joyce famously wrote the -entire- book as a huge dare to the future industry of literary analysis, rendering the book as famously the most unread.
    – Mitch
    Sep 4 '20 at 12:19
  • 3
    @DecapitatedSoul To be honest, but also surely a very common experience, I have never gotten past the first paragraph. I either go down the rabbit hole of trying to analyze a single word, or quickly turn to a more constructive activity like punching myself in the face. At least Carroll's Jabberwocky -feels- like it makes sense.
    – Mitch
    Sep 4 '20 at 12:27
  • 2
    I count 100 letters, not 101. As in "thundred-letter word". (Although I seem to remember Anthony Burgess remarking that the word occurs ten times in the book, but the tenth occurrence has an extra letter, to remind us of the 1001 Arabian Nights.)
    – TonyK
    Sep 4 '20 at 14:01

Ahh yes, the impeccable word: bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthur- nuk! only opposed by Shakespeare's honorificabilitudinitatibus and the timelessly delightful supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Anyways back to your question: It is a biblical word coined in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake which is widely regarded as being an exceedingly difficult and tormenting book to get through (as is expected from Joyce). Joyce wrote it periodically during a term of seventeen years and it is fittingly considered Joyce's final work (published a little more than a year before his untimely death). I very humbly read it once and find it exceptionally tragic that it is so neglected in the minds' of readers, especially absurdists–to an absurdist, this is the stuff that dreams are made on!–It is a very strange masterpiece indeed (as is expected with Joyce) and I find it quite honorable that such a strange book holds in its pages one of the equally strange and divinely profound words.

The word is defined as the great thunder-crack (metaphorically) which strikes the hour that Satan triumphed, and God's masterstrokes: Adam and Eve face their "paradise lost" fall from grace condemnation.

The word is considered to be "unpronounceable" but I would adore seeing someone give the word some serious thought and try to come up with something.

Here is the passage where the word appears in Joyce's Finnegans Wake:

The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthur — nuk!) of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy.

In context, this refers to a very simple biblical allusion, Joyce is comparing the situation with the great fall from grace of Adam and Eve.-- thus spoke as "The Fall".

  • 7
    It is pronounceable! :)
    – Decapitated Soul
    Sep 4 '20 at 6:13
  • @DecapitatedSoul You have made my day
    – Tom O' Bedlam
    Sep 4 '20 at 12:29
  • 1
    You've written the word as "bababadal[...]toohoohoordenenthur – nuk"—two words, separated by a dash. Is there evidence that Joyce intended this to be two words? I thought it seemed clear that the word is actually "bababadal[...]toohoohoordenenthurnuk"—one word, which was printed in multiple parts, because printing it as an unbroken whole would have been physically impossible (unless they used really small type or something like that).
    – Tanner Swett
    Sep 4 '20 at 12:58
  • @TannerSwett I will look for a first edition copy and check how the word is spelled therein-- I will get back to you on that
    – Tom O' Bedlam
    Sep 4 '20 at 13:42
  • The word is spelled "bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk !" in numerous 1970, 60s, and late1940 editions. I cannot find a true first edition facsimile. Then there are numerous modern texts that have the word spelled as "bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthur — nuk!"-- I agree, I think it is safe to say the word is spelled "bababa(...)enthurnuk !" spelling is how Joyce intended the word. But I may be incorrect. If anyone has a first edition scan that would be exquisite
    – Tom O' Bedlam
    Sep 4 '20 at 14:22

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