I am not a native English speaker, i don't understand deeply English language. So i just want to ask you this.

Many years ago, maybe before 2000, i seldom heard English people say “Uh huh”, “Uh huh” when expressing that they are understanding in a conversation. Instead, most people use "ok","ok" to express that they understand what the opposite person is talking.

But now i heard this word every where, they even use this term in country like China & many other countries (I means some Chinese people use "Uh huh" in their conversation is not rare though English is not their language).

I think “Uh huh” in other countries (especially in Asia) is a quite rude expression if u say like that to older people.

So, When was “Uh huh” invented? is “Uh huh” a formal English?

  • I find it interesting that you say Chinese people now use ‘uh-huh’ in conversations nowadays. Ten years ago, when I was living in China, several of my Chinese friends actually asked me what it meant because they didn’t understand it when they heard me use it when speaking to other friends in English. They thought it meant, “Huh, what?” and were wondering why we seemed to never understand each other! Using it in Chinese would still be very clumsy and strange for me, I think—I automatically switch to that nondescript ‘aw, aw, aw’ sound instead. Oct 25, 2013 at 17:05
  • exactly, 10 years ago, if u say "Uh huh" to a Chinese (may know a bit English) they won't understand anything. But now seem many Chinese people can understand.
    – UtUt
    Nov 16, 2013 at 0:21
  • In my experience the double "ok", is not actually used by native speakers, but common in ESL.
    – Keith
    Dec 30, 2016 at 5:17

1 Answer 1


The OED has it from a 1924 Dialect Notes:

Uh-húh, yes.

But as a part of speech, it will have been used much before that and will be hard to find in print, although I did find an 1858 in the White Cloud Kansas Chief:

"Her name is Peggy ?"

"Uh, huh."

It's often used to acknowledge to a speaker that you're still listening and paying attention, or to answer "yes" to a question.

I'd say it's definitely informal and a simple "yes" or other word should be used in the more formal settings where "uh-huh" may be considered impolite.

  • can u send me the link saying about its history as U said "The OED has it from a 1924 Dialect Notes"?
    – UtUt
    Oct 25, 2013 at 10:52
  • Here's the link. It's requires a subscription, but you may be able to access through your library. I also found an 1858, see edit.
    – Hugo
    Oct 25, 2013 at 11:00

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