What Is an Exclamation?

exclamation - oops
A few more examples of exclamations in American English are Hoo-boy!, Attagirl!, Hot damn!, Fuhgedaboudit!, and Holy smokes!. (Jacquie Boyd/Getty Images)

An exclamation is a sudden, forceful expression or cry. Adjective: exclamatory. The rhetorical term for an exclamation is ecphonesis. Also called a response cry.

Although many exclamations are single-word interjections (including a number of taboo words), some exclamations take the form of phrases and clauses

Examples and Observations

  • What a Great Exclamation!
    "Some exclamation begin with the words what and how which are also interrogative words. Examples of their use in exclamations are What a lovely baby that is! and How prettily it gurgles! But these are not interrogative sentences."
  • Antiquated Exclamations
    "Before the governor had time to answer this question, Pallet broke forth into an exclamation of 'By the Lord! that is certainly fact, egad!... Gadzooks; you're in the right, sir.'"
  • Tom Wolfe's Exclamations
    "One of the signature devices of [Tom] Wolfe's style is his periodic bursts of enthusiastic endorsement or identification--'But exactly!' 'Of course!' 'Just right!' While these interruptions are perhaps too playful and ironic to qualify as expressions of what Longinus calls 'vehement and inspired passion,' they do imply the intensity of Wolfe's involvement in the actions he is describing. They contribute to the effect of hypotyposis: it's as if Wolfe is re-experiencing his initial enthusiasms in the present of the essay."
  • The Lighter Side of Exclamations
    Blackadder: Sir, might I let loose a short violent exclamation?
    Prince George: Certainly.
    Blackadder: [Blackadder moves discreetly sideways, then shouts] Damn!



Also Known As



James R. Hurford, Grammar: A Student's Guide. Cambridge University Press, 1994

Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle, 1751

Chris Anderson, Style as Argument: Contemporary American Nonfiction. Southern Illinois University Press, 1987

Rowan Atkinson and Hugh Laurie in "Dish and Dishonesty." Black Adder the Third, 1987

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "What Is an Exclamation?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/exclamation-language-term-1690685. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). What Is an Exclamation? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/exclamation-language-term-1690685 Nordquist, Richard. "What Is an Exclamation?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/exclamation-language-term-1690685 (accessed March 22, 2023).