From my dim and distant youth, I seem to remember that the exclamation 'ugh' was generally pronounced 'ooh'. I was raised in the Stockport area of the UK, and wonder whether this would have been a regional variant, or whether I am, indeed completely wrong (wouldn't be the first time!) All of the sources I have located recently suggest that 'uggh' is the general pronunciation. Need to get it right for my grandchildren . . . Nowadays I often encounter 'ew' in modern literature as a term of disgust, which spelling I do not recall from years gone by.
"That wine tastes horrible! Ugh!"

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    I've always pronounced it with the 'u' as in up and the 'gh' as in the ch in Scottish loch. But I'd be more likely to say yuck when confronted with a bad taste. – Charl E Feb 16 '17 at 11:55
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    Pretty much all such words are "spelled like they sound". But there are many such "words" - ugh, eww, yech, yuck, gack, guh, yish, ish, et al. Most will never actually be written down, and "ugh" or some such will often be substituted in written dialog, if only to placate the spell checker. – Hot Licks Feb 16 '17 at 12:35
  • The two pronunciations given by ODO, namely [əː] and [ʌx], represent how I’d pronounce it quite well. Though I think I’d be more likely to combine them and pronounce it [ə(ː)x], or more emphatically something like [ə͡ɐˤʁχ], with lots of dipthongisation and pharyngealisation everywhere. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 16 '17 at 13:40
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    Ugg as in ugly... – Drew Feb 16 '17 at 14:53
  • The only pronunciation I've found (represented, wrongly I think as /ʌh/) that sounds like I'd say it is given by Collins (under the usage chart) and labelled as British English. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 30 '19 at 15:04

I grew up in the Midwest of the United States, where it was pronounced to rhyme with "dug".

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    Yeah, that's the only way I've ever heard it pronounced. – Hot Licks Feb 16 '17 at 12:29

Interesting example. The Oxford English Dictionary says:

Brit. /ʊh/, /ʊx/, /ʌh/, /ʌx/, /əː/, /əh/, /əːh/, /ə/, U.S. /ʊh/, /ʊx/, /əh/, /əx/, /ə/

The New Oxford American Dictionary says



I live in the North of England and I pronounce it like u as in up and the gh like the German “ch” sounds in words such as “Buch” (not words such as “ich”) but this may be because I’m half German... I’ve heard other people pronounce it the same way, as well as “ugg”, “uh” and probably some other variants, but I don’t often hear it spoken out loud, just see it typed.


"ew" as in few or pew...expression of disgust...I'm from British Columbia, Canada and have never heard it pronounced any other way. Example: "Ugh, that outhouse smells disgusting."


We might look at how the artist "Van Gogh" gets his name pronounced in different places:

Britain: "Van Goff", usually

U.S.: "Van Go", normally.

Closer to how the artist might have pronounced it: "Van Go (plus some "gurgling")"

"Gh" stopped having a particular phonemic sound in English long ago. "Neighbor" is spelt as it is even though the "gh" has no real function. In "enough" the "gh" seems to represent "f". So there are options. One could pronounce ugh" "oo" or "ooff" or"oo(gurgle)", and, with various permutations. I think one should say it as one wishes.

  • @J Taylor: The Dutch pronounce it with gurgling both before and after the "o". – Peter Shor Jan 9 '19 at 20:32
  • @Peter Shor I will gladly accept correction here. I've never been aware of the 'double gurgle" maybe because i have a hard time listening to "Dutch" or Flemish. The few times I have been faced with the issue, I inquire "Nederlander?" and if an affirmative reply is received, I would switch to English or German.neither of which hurt my brain as much. Thank You – J. Taylor Jan 10 '19 at 0:16
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    I became aware of the "double gurgle" when somebody from the Netherlands, speaking English, was shocked that none of us had ever heard of the painter Ghhhoghh (he left out the van, as well, although I don't think that's the way it's usually done in Dutch). – Peter Shor Jan 10 '19 at 0:55
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    Yes, the Dutch pronunciation is with the harsh "gurgling" sound before and after the 'o', sounding like a harsher variant of the Scottish 'loch'. I'm Dutch, and a visual artist, if that helps to establish a sort of authority. In southern parts of the Netherlands, and in Flemish, which is a Dutch dialect, the harsher sounds are often replaced by slightly softer versions, more closely resembling the 'ch' in 'loch', or even softer (almost resembling 'h' like in 'hot'). The Wikipedia article has audio of a Dutch pronunciation, by the way. – Joachim Jan 26 at 12:44

Growing up midwest as well, I always heard "uhh" for the pronunciation. It was always like that everywhere I went until my college friend of 5+ years went from "uhh" to "ugg" when expressing her frustrations when someone annoyed her.

It's very cringy and now my kids have started saying it. When they do, I'd calmly tell them that they're not a caveman...say something different. They'd yell back, "Mom!" or "Grr".

"Uhh" and "Grr" both just feel right because I can gradually increase volume of "Uhh" to screaming levels (morphs to "ahh" when this happens) to Express frustrations and increase intensity of "Grr" when the situation requires a more quiet atmosphere (grocery store or auditorium during a concert intermission).

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