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Word of the Week: Gargalethesia

Word of the Week: Gargalethesia

The Tickle Book by Ian Whybrow & Axel SchefflerThere can’t be many people out there who haven’t experienced gargalethesia,  Writeable’s ‘Word Of The Week’, meaning the sensation caused by being tickled.

This week we bring you the term gargalethesia as a result of reading The Tickle Book by Ian Whybrow and Axel Scheffler. My 4-year-old is never able to bear the thought of being tickled when the Tickle Monster appeared. Preempting gargalethesia, he kept telling me, “I’m allergic, allergic!” Which prompted me to inform him of the correct word for the sensation and allowed me to enjoy hearing his cute mispronunciations.


The actual pronunciation is ‘gar-gal-es-the-sia.’ The word itself comes from a combination of:

  • The Greek word ‘gargalos’ means ‘itching’.
  • The scientific term ‘esthesia’ means the sensation caused by tickling.

Psychologist G.Stanley Hall and Arthur Allan used two other related words to describe the varying levels of tickling:

  • Knismesis – A feather-light tickling that doesn’t typically cause laughter but can cause an itching sensation.
  • Gargalesis – A harder, laughter-inducing tickling, following repeated high-pressure tickling to ticklish areas.

For those of us trying to lose weight while the gyms remain closed, it’s worth knowing that gargalethesia can help you burn calories. With 10-15 minutes of laughing capable of burning up to 40 calories a day.

I’ll always suffer from gargalethesia when my feet get targeted. As for my children, they can’t even stand the anticipation of being tickled. How about you? Are you able to tolerate the sensation long enough to burn those calories? Or are you a squealing wreck as soon as anyone comes close to tickling you?

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