AskDefine | Define horripilation

Dictionary Definition

horripilation n : reflex erection of hairs of the skin in response to cold or emotional stress or skin irritation [syn: pilomotor reflex, gooseflesh, goose bump, goose pimple, goose skin]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A real or fancied bristling of the hair of the head or body, resulting from disease, terror, chilliness, etc.


Extensive Definition

Goose bumps, also called goose pimples, goose flesh, chill bumps, chicken skin, people bumps, or the medical term cutis anserina, are the bumps on a person's skin at the base of body hairs which involuntarily develop when a person is cold or experiences strong emotions such as fear or awe. The reflex of producing goose bumps is known as horripilation, piloerection, or the pilomotor reflex. It occurs not only in humans but also in many other mammals; a prominent example are porcupines which raise their quills when threatened.
Goose bumps are created when tiny muscles at the base of each hair, known as arrectores pilorum, contract and pull the hair erect. The reflex is started by the sympathetic nervous system, which is in general responsible for many fight-or-flight responses.
As a response to cold: in animals covered with fur or hair, the erect hairs trap air to create a layer of insulation. Goose bumps can also be a response to anger or fear: the erect hairs make the animal appear larger, in order to intimidate enemies. This can be observed in the intimidation displays of chimpanzees, in stressed mice and rats, and in frightened cats. In humans, it can even extend to piloerection as a reaction to hearing nails scratch on a chalkboard or listening to awe-inspiring music.
Piloerection as a response to cold or fear is vestigial in humans; as humans retain only very little body hair, the reflex (in humans) now provides no known benefit.
In humans, goose bumps are strongest on the forearms, but also occur on the legs, back, and other areas of the skin that have hair. In some people, they even occur in the face or on the head.
Piloerection is also a (rare) symptom of some diseases, such as temporal lobe epilepsy, some brain tumors, and autonomic hyperreflexia. Goose bumps can also be caused by heroin withdrawal. A skin condition that mimics goose bumps in appearance is keratosis pilaris.
Goose bumps can occur only in mammals, since other animals do not have hair. The term "goose bumps" is therefore misleading: the bumps on the skin of a plucked goose technically do not qualify as piloerection even though this is where the term comes from. Birds do however have a similar reflex of raising their feathers in order to keep warm.
The Latin horrere is the root of words such as "horrific" or "horror"; it means "to bristle", and then "be horrified" because of the accompanying hair reaction.
In German this is called Gänsehaut, i.e. "goose skin".
It is named after a supposed resemblance to the appearance of the skin of a bird whose feathers have been plucked out.
In other languages, the "goose" may be replaced by other kinds of poultry. For instance, "hen" is used in French (la chair de poule), "Chicken" is used in Dutch (kippenvel), Spanish (la piel de gallina) , Chinese (雞皮疙瘩) and Afrikaans (hoendervleis).


horripilation in Arabic: قشعريرة البرد
horripilation in German: Gänsehaut
horripilation in Spanish: Piel de gallina
horripilation in French: Chair de poule
horripilation in Hebrew: עור ברווז
horripilation in Dutch: Kippenvel
horripilation in Japanese: 鳥肌
horripilation in Norwegian: Gåsehud
horripilation in Swedish: Gåshud
horripilation in Latvian: Zosāda

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

ache, aching, agitation, broken ground, broken water, chilblains, chill, chilliness, chilling, chills of fear, chop, cold creeps, cold shivers, cold sweat, corduroy, corduroy road, corrugation, creeps, cryopathy, disquiet, disquietude, dithers, duck bumps, fear and trembling, frostbite, goose bumps, goose pimples, gooseflesh, heartquake, inquietude, jimjams, kibe, lop, nervousness, palpitation, perturbation, quaking, quiver of terror, ripple, rough, sandpaper, shivering, shivers, sweat, thrill of fear, trepidation, trepidity, uneasiness, washboard
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