shiv·a·ree (shĭv′ə-rē, shĭvə-rē′)
Midwestern & Western US
A noisy mock serenade for newlyweds. Also called regionally charivari, belling, horning, serenade.
[Alteration of CHARIVARI.]
Word History: Shivaree is the most common American regional form of charivari, a word of French origin meaning "a noisy mock serenade for newlyweds." In the past, shivarees were given to married couples who were thought to be mismatched or to people whose conduct was considered scandalous. The French term probably derives from the Late Latin word meaning "headache," carībaria, which in turn is from Greek karēbariā, a compound of karē, "head," and barus, "heavy." English shivaree, most likely borrowed from French traders and settlers along the Mississippi River, was well established in the United States by 1805. The word shivaree is especially common along and west of the Mississippi River. Its use thus forms a dialect boundary running north-south, dividing western usage from eastern. This is unusual in that most dialect boundaries run east-west, dividing the country into northern and southern dialect regions. Some regional equivalents are belling, used in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan; horning, from upstate New York, northern Pennsylvania, and western New England; and serenade, a term used chiefly in the South Atlantic states.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.