It’s not a giggle, a chuckle, or a titter

Okay, this has come up on numerous occasions while working on my novel series. Say you have a mature/respected character, like a high priestess, and she gives a small laugh. I’ve been wracking my brains as to what to call it. It’s not laughy enough to be called a full laugh. It’s a restrained laugh. (and don’t tell me to write Ondelle gave a restrained laugh. That’s lame; I want a verb. Ondelle _______ed.)

It’s not a giggle, she’s not a little girl.

It’s not a chuckle, she’s not a fat creepy uncle.

It’s not a titter, that’s too demeaning.

It’s not a snicker or a snigger.

And yes, I’ve gone through a thesaurus.

(My publisher Tod said, “How about a guffaw!” and I nearly lost my coffee through my nose. High Priestess Ondelle guffawed!)


  1. Angelica
    May 18, 2010

    OK, question — why does the H.P. have to have a “restrained” laugh — that wouldn’t be Real — and I think a H.P. would be unrestrained …
    “restrained” laugh is like a ‘polite’ laugh — not really meaning it, but thinking it’s appropriate.
    Just saying 🙂

  2. Perhaps restrained isn’t the right description. It’s simply a small laugh and it’s a situational laugh. She doesn’t laugh the same way all the time.

    Just like the rest of us, there are times when she bursts out laughing; laughs ironically over something tragic, yet humorous; or laughs in disbelief.

    I want the word to describe her 1/2 laugh. The one where she smiles and laughs into her closed lips. She might restrain a full laugh if the full laugh would offend or embarrass the other person.

  3. meeshelleneal
    May 19, 2010

    What about a laugh that escapes her lips? Like surprised laughter or maybe ‘venerable laughter’ 🙂 I just thought, high priestess… you know 😉

  4. Kamini
    May 21, 2010

    How about “gurgled”…it has a nice girly ring to it. Cannot imagine a man “gurgling” but a high priestess like Ondelle, definitely.

  5. Suma
    May 30, 2010

    How about describing the expression of her lips ? Its going to be wordy, but makes up for a giggle or chuckle 🙂

  6. Jan Markley
    Jun 5, 2010



    pulled a mona lisa!

  7. mona lisa — yes!

    mona lisa would definitely NOT chuckle or tittle or giggle.

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