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"kekeke" is somewhat of an alternative to "hehehe" or "huehuehue". From Urban Dictionary:

This is an onomatopoeia for laughter. Its origin is the Korean onomatopoeia ㅋㅋㅋ, in which ㅋ stands for the "k" sound, like in raspy, stifled laughter.

This obviously means it isn't English in origin but the question I have is whether it would be considered an English word when used in sentences like the following:

ATTACK THE BASE! KEKEKE!

OMG ZERGRUSH kekeke

Since it is an onomatopoeia, it "translates" perfectly into English. We can make the same sound and the connotation of such laughter carries over into English speaking cultures. Does this mean it is considered a valid English word?

The simple question: What is "kekeke" with regards to the English language?

  • 3
    I'm not sure I would consider any part of OMG ZERGRUSH kekeke to be English :-). – choster Dec 17 '13 at 15:48
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    The English word for the sound would be cackle – mplungjan Dec 17 '13 at 16:04
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    Maybe through the popularity of anime the younger generations might be familiar with "kekeke" as representing laughter, but us "slightly" older folks here in the US are used to seeing "ha ha ha" or "hee hee hee" or "heh heh, heh heh" ala Beavis and Butthead. :-) – Kristina Lopez Dec 17 '13 at 16:36
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    Clearly a duplicate! – RegDwigнt Dec 17 '13 at 16:56
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    In the "attack the base" quote, I would actually assume that "kekeke" was imitating a machine gun. – Marthaª Dec 17 '13 at 18:40
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I don't have comparable information for the Oxford English Dictionary—but historically, Merriam-Webster has not been terribly welcoming to giggles, gurgles, grunts, and other onomatopoeic ejaculations. The tendency goes back to Noah Webster himself, who included entries for "ha" and "hey" in his Compendious Dictionary of the English Language (1806), but not for "hah," "ha-ha," "hi," or "ho," though "hah" goes at least as far back as the play Sir Gyles Goosecappe Knight (1606), and though the Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) dates "ha-ha" to "before 12c," "hi" to "15c," and "ho" to "15c." (Johnson's 1756 Dictionary has entries for "ha," "hey," and "ho," but not for the others.)

In the United States, "hah" and "ho" debut in Webster's 1828 Dictionary of the English Language, which also acknowledges (under the entry for "ha") that "When repeated, ha, ha, it is an expression of laughter, or sometimes it is equivalent to 'Well! it is so.'" Nevertheless, "ha-ha" in the sense of laughter doesn't receive its own entry in Merriam-Webster's until the Seventh Collegiate Dictionary (1963), which also marks the Collegiate series debut of "hi."

For additional context, consider the Merriam-Webster's handling of "er," "heh," "huh," "huh-uh," "nuh-uh," "ugh," "uh," "uh-huh," "uh-oh," and "uh-uh." The Eleventh Collegiate provides first occurrence dates for six of the words, but the first appearance of each in a Collegiate series dictionary is typically much later:

• "huh," dated to 1608, debuts in the Ninth Collegiate (1983)

• "ugh," dated to 1678, debuts in the First Collegiate (1898); it doesn't appear in the Webster's Academic Dictionary of 1895

• "er," dated to 1862, debuts in the Eleventh Collegiate (2003)

• "uh-huh," dated to 1889, debuts in the Eighth Collegiate (1973)

• "uh-uh," dated to 1924, debuts in the Tenth Collegiate (1993)

• "uh-oh," dated to 1971, debuts in the Tenth Collegiate (1993)

• "heh," "hmm," "huh-uh," "nuh-uh," and "uh" do not yet appear in the Collegiate series

Based on these instances, I wouldn't expect Merriam-Webster's to start taking "kekeke" seriously as a word in standard English before the year 2035 at the earliest, even assuming that it were to quickly achieve the popularity of "uh-oh" (which seems unlikely).

  • Considering that both ha and haha, being orthographic representations of the near-universal phonetic realisations of common human physical reactions, have likely existed since very early on in the history of human speech (let’s be generous and say for about 100,000 years), “before 12c” seems somewhat of an understatement to me. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 5 '17 at 9:39
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It's a coinage used in English.

We can coin whatever we want, however we want, but most examples fall into:

  1. Composition from classical roots (e.g. combining tele and vision to invent television.
  2. Composition from English roots (quite a few of E E Cummings' coinages are of this sort, such as Bothatonce in "she being Brand").
  3. Onomatopoeia.
  4. Deliberate nonsense.

Because the first three give us ways in which we have a reasonable chance of being understood, and with the fourth that isn't a concern.

Sometimes such words are intended to be new names for concepts or inventions (e.g. television) and are hence an attempt to create a word that would become part of the language. Sometimes such words are intended for a particular use only and are not intended to become part of the language.

Whether a word actually does become more widely used can go either way in either case though; some coined terms the inventor wants adapted never catch on or soon die out, while some never intended for general use are picked up, even in the nonsense case (e.g. chortle and runcible, both of which have meanings now even though both were coined without any actual meaning at the time).

Now the idea of whether a word is "in" a language or not is a vague question. Right now kekeke is not much used, so we would generally say it is not an English word. If lots of people used it, then there would come a point where even the most conservative would have to agree that it is now a word in English (I don't see this happening in this case). Just when that line is crossed can not be determined in a way that would get full consensus.

For the time being though, it's pretty safe to say that it's not an English word, it's an onomatopoeic coinage used in English.

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