Sunday, April 4, 2010




1 : to rush in forcibly or violently
2 of a natural population : to undergo a sudden upsurge in numbers especially when natural ecological balances and checks are disturbed
3 : to become active or violent especially suddenly : erupt

When I look at this word I think: erupt. Erupt even appears in IRRUPT's third definition. Hm.

Mirriam's example sentence uses the word IRRUPT in the context of applause:

"The stadium IRRUPTED in applause for the local high school choir's outstanding rendition of the national anthem."

In this context, I would have used erupt. So, really, what is the difference?

The internet still amazes me. I type "erupt vs. irrupt" into the search box and this plastic window leads me to an answer, actually, several options for answers. Here's the most concise explanation, from

To erupt is literally to burst out, while the less common irrupt is literally to burst in: The gang erupted from the building onto the street when the police irrupted into it.

That said, in the case of applause, it is still questionable what is more appropriate. Applause itself is not an action of moving out or in. It's just moving. I suppose enthusiasm is coming out of the body via the act of applauding. On the other hand, IRRUPT suggests a beginning, a movement into something, and it is used in describing the beginning of applause, as opposed to the end.

Neither word would be appropriate for the end of applause. No one every says, "The crowd erupted out of applause," since we all know applause fades, quiets, sinks into silence—it doesn't stop abruptly or violently. This leads me to believe IRRUPT is in fact the more appropriate word for the start of applause, even though no one knows or uses it. In fact, if I saw it written somewhere I would assume it was a typo.

That is, before today.


Forget the overpopulation crisis—we need to figure out whether or not IRRUPT is excessive to the english language.

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