Weekly Word: Gesticulate

To gesticulate means “to make or use gestures, esp. in an animated or excited manner with or instead of speech.”

From the Online Etymology Dictionary, it comes from Latin “gesticulari ‘to gesture, mimic,’ from gesticulus ‘a mimicking gesture,’ dim. of gestus ‘gesture, carriage, posture’.”

A quick search for “gesticulate” on Google News revealed that six out of the 17 results use the phrase “gesticulate wildly”. This made me curious, so I searched on Google:

  • "gesture" - about 15,900,000 results
  • "gesticulate" - about 159,000 results
  • "gesture wildly" - about 676 results
  • "gesticulate wildly" - about 984 results

Interesting, isn’t it? Even though gesture is used 100 times more often than gesticulate, the phrase “gesticulate wildly” is still more common than “gesture wildly”. Well, if you’re going to describe an action as happening “wildly”, I guess it works better with a word that also sounds wild.

The definition for gesture is simply “to make or use a gesture or gestures”, but the definition for gesticulate means to make gestures “in an animated or excited manner”. Wouldn’t that make “gesticulate wildly” a bit of a pleonasm (a redundant phrase)? Or is it an idiom that has some extra meaning?