I was wondering what is the name for the introductory "coughing" in English, i.e. when somebody clears their throat to start their utterance. For example:

"Ekhm... Welcome! How can I help you?"

Is "ekhm" the right way to spell such onomatopoeia? Are there any other ways to spell it?

  • 1
    These posts about the use of fillers and hedges may be of interest to you.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 12:37
  • What is it called, how do you write it, or what is it? It is called a 'clearing of the throat'. It is written 'ahem'. It is an unvoiced (glottal or laryngeal) nasal. Oh..and it acts as an attention getter.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 15, 2011 at 20:04

2 Answers 2


In English, we would most commonly spell this utterance "Ahem." It is used to somewhat politely gain someone's attention.

It can be considered a hedge or filler, that is, a vocal delay that allows the speaker time to collect their thoughts while speaking.

I understood what you meant by "ekhm," but I have never seen it spelled that way. However, I imagine that the spelling of a word like this could be subject to regional differences.


I'd just write:

Cough cough...

But, if you want the "e" version, it's actually:

Ahem! (not "e")

  • Thank you very much, it was on the tip of my tongue, but I simply forgot the spelling. I was looking for "Ahem".
    – Hiena
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 12:42

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