The sound made by pushing middle tongue against palate, tip of tongue bent downward and pushed up against upper teeth and sucking in air sharply w/ mouth open, chin drops and holds for an instant. A forceful "thch..ahch!" Often accompanied by eyes rolling upward. Meant to express demeaning irritation and/or feigned, mocking disbelief at such stupidity, etc.. "Oh brother, there he goes again...! Sarcastic "Do you believe he said that? I would be happy to borrow from another language if there isn't an English word for it.

  • See english.stackexchange.com/questions/59684/…
    – Davo
    Feb 15, 2018 at 20:49
  • 2
    I still don't know what this is. Is it what is usually spelled 'tsk tsk'?
    – Mitch
    Feb 15, 2018 at 20:59
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    This is like hum, hem and hmm. The word is tutting, the way to spell out the sound is tsk. It's often associated (in the contexts you describe) with eye-rolling. Feb 16, 2018 at 3:07
  • I think the 'pfff' sound is appropriate to the above. It is the one made by curling the lip in a sneer and puffing out the bottom lip.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 16, 2018 at 6:56

3 Answers 3


Take your pick from this excellent article on annoying noises people make: annoying sounds

This one works well for what you are asking:

Alveolar, alveopalatal, or postalveolar click "Tongue-clucking." Specifically in disapproval. Often done with a slight upward detour of the eyes. Someone else has done something one simply doesn't do, darling, and we're not the sort of person who would actually voice disapproval — how base — but, you know, tsk. In short, an impatient, self-regarding, passive-aggressive condemnation. If you do this, try just… not… doing it.

  1. Final rising tone: "Uptalk."

  2. Final creaky phonation: "Vocal fry." The latest "OMG this new thing these kids do is going to destroy language!"

  3. Fortis voiceless alveopalatal fricative: "Ssssshhhhhhh!"

  4. Velar-ingressive linguadental fricative: "Sucking your teeth." Often this is to the side, not right in the middle.

  5. Pulmonic-ingressive breathy-voiced rising-tone neutral vowel: "Gasp."

  6. Fortis long final consonant with epenthetic neutral vowel: "Don't-tuh do this-suh." [My personal favorite]

  7. Pulmonic ingressive voiceless alveolar glide and mid-central vowel, with optional unreleased final bilabial stop: Inhaled "Yeah" or "Yep."

  8. Sustained mid-central vowel and/or bilabial nasal: "Uhhh… uhmmmm… mmmmm…"

  9. Alveolar, alveopalatal, or postalveolar click: "Tongue-clucking." Specifically in disapproval. Often done with a slight upward detour of the eyes.

  10. Loud long low back vowel with advanced tongue root and full oral opening: "Moose-call yawns."

The author, James Harbeck deserves a huge PRIZE for his priceless article!

There are 10 of them and so well described.



I believe you're looking for the phrase "sucking your teeth." I didn't know what that term meant until I made that sound at a friend who said, "Don't suck your teeth at me!" Interesting article about it: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11651574/French-schools-ban-teeth-sucking.html


Tsk tsk is the right answer. Although I guess there is another sound similar to it but it is made just once (and a bit as louder). One may call it just tsk. I don't know if in the literary community it has been universally accepted as a fact.

It involves separating both the lips also besides tongue and teeth. But quickly.

The combination of the quick separation - 1. of both lips 2. teeth and tongue from upper region of mouth (palate I guess) - make one sound that depicts frustration or disapproval.

I personally find it offensive when someone makes it even for genuine reasons. I wish no one did that.

Disclaimer. I do it sometimes myself. I try not do it.

  • Or "tut tut", Of course once people have read "tut" they tend to pronounce it as a word! The same is true for many such sounds, for example "Ugh!" - a sound of revulsion made with the back of the tongue, is often pronounced "Ug" when read. Until we start using the IPA to print English, this sort of thing is inevitable. The standard alphabet just can't cope. Note: "tsk tsk" could be read as "tusk tusk" or similar. This is one of the banes of an author's life. Jun 17, 2020 at 14:59

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