1. What are the differences between hoarse, husky, raspy, ..., when describing a person's voice?
  2. When a person is sick by cold, which word from above is used to describe his voice? Suppose if he goes to see a doctor, what is the word to describe his voice more professionally?
  • As an aside, I wouldn't worry about finding a "professional" word to describe the condition. First of all, if you've lost your voice, the doctor couldn't help but know. Second, most doctors will likely know most of the common-language ways to describe most medical problems.
    – Sam
    Commented May 29, 2011 at 5:34

2 Answers 2


Hoarse typically indicates something has changed temporarily in the timbre of the voice. This could be caused by an inflammation of the vocal chords (laryngitis) which can be cause by a cold, or over-stressing the voice (yelling), acid-reflux, among other things.

While husky can apply to both men and women, it is mostly used to describe women with low-pitched voices, often, but not always, gravelly. Kathleen Turner, Stevie Nicks, or Melissa Etheridge come to mind.

Raspy voices are the opposite of smooth. Where Sinatra or Nat King Cole had silky smooth voices, Ray Charles, or Eric Burden have gravelly, gritty voices. (I can give more contemporary examples if needed)

Hoarse is the best one to use when describing the condition to a doctor. Another common phrase is "lost my voice", often an extreme example of being hoarse, where almost no sound is produced.


Husky would be used to describe a deep, low-pitch voice. Raspy marks an unpleasantly harsh, grating voice.

'Hoarse' on the other hand, definitely connotes more of a medical problem than the other two. If someone has laryngitis and is having a hard time speaking a doctor would describe their voice as "hoarse".

If you want to use more professional terminology you could elaborate further by saying the person has laryngitis to explain why their voice has a hoarseness to it.

  • 2
    I disagree that a raspy voice is necessarily unpleasant, harsh, or grating. Ever hear Tom Waits? or Joe Cocker?
    – Sam
    Commented May 29, 2011 at 4:50
  • I'm having trouble seeing how "laryngitis" would be a way to describe the sound of someone's voice. If I spent the last ten minutes screaming, my voice would also be hoarse.
    – user8794
    Commented May 29, 2011 at 5:13
  • Mad-Eye Moody had a raspy voice :)
    – lightsong
    Commented May 29, 2011 at 7:32
  • Well it could also be something more dramatic like lung or throat cancer, especially if one has the cigarette habit.
    – user18327
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 21:01

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