Why is "duh" the word chosen to represent ignorance? Merriam Webster defines "duh" as "used derisively to indicate that something just stated is all too obvious or self-evident." But a derivation isn't given. Why "duh"?

I've checked out the answers to the previous duh question, and I get no satisfaction. The Wikipedia entry on the universality of "mama" and "papa" provides an analogy.

Why do babies first say "mama" and "papa?"

"These terms are built up from speech sounds that are easiest to produce (bilabials like m, p, and b and the open vowel a." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mama_and_papa

The babies, of course, initially have no idea that these sounds mean mother and father, but the reaction of the mother and father will attach the meaning to those sounds. Is "duh" a variation on "uh?" Is "uh" a sound that a human might first utter when in need? Open-mouthed. Simply formed. A grunt really. Food! Food! But someone who has to beg for food may be flawed. Too stupid to find their own food.

  • Duh or No Duh? literalminded.wordpress.com/2004/10/31/duh-or-no-duh
    – user66974
    Dec 10, 2016 at 9:38
  • There is no way of knowing why a particular word or sound originally, at whatever point in time, became associated with one particular semantic notion rather than any other, unless you are the one who made the association. There is no magical connection between sound and meaning, except in the very broad and vague way that phonosemantics work. Why duh in particular? No one knows. Could just as well have been fah or gum or bub or weh. Someone felt the sound fit the meaning, and others ended up happening to agree. Dec 10, 2016 at 9:49
  • Guilt by association.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 10, 2016 at 13:10

2 Answers 2


The origin is of imitative nature, and its earliest usages dates back at least to the early '40s according to the following source. Other sourses dates its origin from the '60s.

  • The interjection 'duh' (to indicate that a statement is too obvious or self-evident) originated as an imitation of the utterance (Duh) made by slow-witted people.
  • It appeared first in 1943 in a cartoon, Jack-Wabbit and the Beanstalk starring Bugs Bunny, where the giant uttered the interjection.

    • Bugs Bunny: [Nervously] Eh, what's up doc? Giant: Duh, caught ya choppin' up my victory garden, huh?, Well don't try nuttin' funny cuz I got ya covered! [Pulls out a gun].



Could 'duh' seem more appropriate than (say) 'buh' or 'guh' for physiological reasons? Picture the archetypal dullard with mouth hanging open and thick tongue behind the front teeth. He's asked to comment on the situation, and the sound that comes out is 'duh'.

  • It's been noted my question has been asked and answered before, but the previous answers reveal only the history of the word's use. Your answer--a physiological reason for its existence--is closer to what I'm seeking. Duh could very well be a variation on "uh," which may be a sound that occurs when a person is trying, but can't quite articulate what he wants to say.
    – Zan700
    Dec 10, 2016 at 20:19

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.