Vocabulary from the Papal Conclave: Murmuratio

wondrous memeWelcome to Wondrous Words Wednesday, a meme hosted by Kathy at bermudaonion.net.  Join us each week to learn some great new words!

Today we’re going to see how one word can take us from the Pope to starlings.  Don’t see how?  Follow me!

In a report on the Papal Conclave, a journalist used an interesting Latin word to describe the informal, private conversations between the Cardinals as they prepare to vote for a new pope: mumuratio.

This word is the basis for the English word murmuration, which has two very different meanings.  I couldn’t find the word in Webster’s, so I consulted Dictionary.com:

murmuration \mur-muh-ra-shun\ noun, from Latin murmuratio; 

  1. a low, continuous sound; an act or instance of murmuring
  2. the movement of a flock of starlings, believed to help with self-defense

Yes, when a large flock of starlings in the sky moves in undulating formation, it’s called a murmuration.  Watch this video of murmuration from YouTube.


Word Nerd Workout

Try to think of a setting where you might hear murmuration- a constant, low babble of voices.  Then share a sentence about it.  For example,

The murmuration of his fellow classmates intimidated Stuart as he climbed the steps to the stage and prepared to give his speech.

Thanks for playing!


P.S.  If anyone can give me some technical assistance on how to actually embed the video into this post, I would greatly appreciate it! 🙂

Julia Tomiak
I believe in the power of words to improve our lives, and I help people find interesting words to read. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Google+. Member of SCBWI and Wordsmithstudio.org.


  1. Murma-what?!? I have never heard of this word. I LOVE the picture of the starlings taking flight that you posted.

    Next time I see a flock of them take off like that, you know what I’m going to be saying…


  2. My dictionary doesn’t list the crows meaning. I think I’ll get a new dictionary.

    That video is wonderful! While I might have admired the formation, i don’t think I would have seen the beauty in a flock of crows. It’s so wonderful that others do, and are willing to share it.

  3. I hear many murmurations from my children after I assign chores – yahoo! As for the video, did you copy and then imbed in HTML format? I use Blogger though so maybe it’s different, but I have to switch to HTML and not TEXT or it doesn’t work. I don’t often imbed videos but have a few times…?

  4. What a cool word, and one that’s easily understood in a classroom setting OR in a church sanctuary!

    And now for your tech help: when you’re entering the text for your post, switch from Visual to Text and copy over the embed (html) code. Be sure to click back to Visual, or you’ll have a hot mess on your hands 🙂

  5. Hi Julia,

    Thank you for stopping by Fiction Books today. I love ‘meeting’ new people, so your visits will always be welcome and your comments much appreciated.

    I know of the word mumuration in relaton to both the definitions you give, however I struggle with the way the word is used in connection with the recent papal election. Surely in this context, it is almot verging on ‘lobbying’, not a good look for the so say representative of Christ, here on earth!

    That video of the starling flock is so impressive, isn’t it? The clip which always amazes me no matter how many times I watch, is this one:


    But I am afraid that I can’t help you with embedding the images in your post, I have trouble with the absolute basics without the help of my ‘techie’ husband!!

    I hope that your week is going well so far,


  6. I knew murmuration as it applies to starlings, and it is one of my very favourite words, but didn’t know it could be applied to cardinals- but they’re birds too right?

  7. “The murmuration of the disgruntled employees were obvious to their boss as he began to deliver the news of recent cut backs.”

    This isn’t too bad is it? I think I’m getting the hand of this (a little). 😉

    Have a great week Julia,
    Love, Hester 😉

    ps. thanks for the vocab stretch! 😉

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