I'm not very sure if grunt is the right word. I think a grunt is louder and comes mainly from the throat. I'm looking for a word that expresses a softer noise.

  • @EdwinAshworth Please make this an answer.
    – bib
    Jan 24, 2015 at 15:02
  • Please record this noise and post a link to the resulting sound file. Otherwise my answer would only be a guess.
    – Erik Kowal
    Jan 25, 2015 at 6:05

4 Answers 4


I think a possible word for this might be 'hum'.


to say with closed lips, without articulating words.

Tom agreed with him and gave a hum, "Mm.".


Delightful question. A nasal pragmatic (subset backchannelling!) marker! Is this the ah-hah? (rising intonation, if that's the right word for hums). Or the mono'syllabic' Hmm.

Other 'hums' include

the equivalent of 'What!?' (hmMMM?).

The 'No!' (uh-huh; falling intonation).

The eureka Aah.

The discovery of a sinister plot by the kids (A-hah)'

The disgusted eugh.

The 'haven't a clue' (single high note) (possibly rendered Huh?.)

If bib wants a nasal dictionary, he can write his own.


The act of sniffing might suggest what you are describing:

  • To inhale a short, audible breath through the nose, as in smelling something.

I don't think there's a word for it - you'd just imitate the noise.

(I'm assuming here...)

The sound you're referring to is usually spelled "Mm" or "Mm-hmm" (the latter to differentiate it from the sound you make when something smells yummy)

"I don't know if he was listening, or not - he just 'Mm-hmm'd' at me - so, I'll take it as a 'yes'." (US)

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