Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 281 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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LAUGHTER, the visible and audible expression of mirth, pleasure or the sense of the ridiculous by movements of the facial muscles and inarticulate sounds (see COMEDY, PLAY and HuMouR). The O. Eng. hleahtor is formed from hleahhan, to laugh, a common Teutonic word; cf. Ger. lachen, Goth. hlahjan, Icel. hlaeja, &c. These are in origin echoic or imitative words, to be referred to a Tent. base hlah-, Indo-Eur. kark-, to make a noise; Skeat (Etym. Dict., 1898) connects ultimately Gr. xX roew, to cluck like a hen, Kp4eLv, to croak, &c. A gentle and inaudible form of laughter expressed by a movement of the lips and by the eyes is a " smile." This is a comparatively late word in English, and is due to Scandinavian influence; cf. Swed. smila; it is ultimately connected with Lat. mirari, to wonder, and probably with Gr. ĀµeTos.
End of Article: LAUGHTER
JOSEF LAUFF (1855- )

Additional information and Comments

There is a huge literature on 'laughter.' If interested in learning about the topic, one might begin with Robert R. Provine: Laughter - A Scientific Investigation. New York, 2000. An informative web site is that of the International Society of Humor Studies.
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