If someone offends someone, their immediate reaction is sometimes letting out a kind of unvoiced aspirated glottal plosive. I am not sure if that's the right term, but it feels plosive, aspirated and unvoiced, and it feels like its coming from the part of my throat that I use to produce glottal sounds. For people that are a bit more dramatic, the sound may be voiced. I feel like the unvoiced version is more a judgmental sound (ie. how distasteful it is for you to say that), whereas the voiced one is more of a whiny sound.

I am afraid making this sound might not be as widespread as I think, but it is definitely something we do in Norway.

I'm wondering what the English, non-technical word for what that sound is, or the word for the act of making that sound.


A way you might be able to construct an approximate sound is by taking "ugh", removing the "u" and shortening the sound you're left with. Then, try to move that sound further down your throat. That'll get you something along the lines of what I'm talking about.


I will try to add more clues to this puzzle by describing how it feels to produce the sound. Greybeard's ahem/harrumph suggestion (like the ugh suggestion) gets the location down to some degree. The ugh suggestion is wrong because its voiced and has a vowel, and Greybeard's suggestion is wrong because it is far more harsh (and also, the sound I'm talking about is monosyllabic and not typically repeated).

The ahem/harrumph noise feels like a scraping pop somewhere in your throat. The noise I'm talking about feels like a soft pop in the glottal area.


Just to be extra clear, this is what I suspect the sound to be, phonetically transcripted:


  • Is it some kind of gasp, as though you are having a sudden expiration or intake of breath? I'm not sure what sound you mean, but that's based on your description.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 14:19
  • It's a kind of a small exhale, yes. @StuartF
    – user110391
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 14:38
  • It might help us find the English word if you told us what it is in Norwegian. As something Norwegians definitely do, I'd hope that there's a Norwegian word for it.
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 14:47
  • @PapaPoule Nope, we've got no word for it as far as I am aware. It's not really something I've heard anyone remark about either.
    – user110391
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 14:58
  • How different is it from the Korean khhhh / Hhhhckkkk / khwaaaa?
    – Michaelyus
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 14:59

5 Answers 5


I'm not familiar with an exact word corresponding to what you mean, but the slang approximate guh may work to represent the sound. It doesn't appear in well-known dictionaries, but see these Urban Dictionary entries for guh:

Pronounced like Duh, but with a G.

A combination of being dumb-strucked by something or someone to the point of drooling.

when someone is irritating you. or you are annoyed by something. (this is how its used in MD, it may be different for other areas)

Its range seems to be between dumbstruck pleasure to disappointment or irritation. The Corpus of Contemporary American English turns up a few of these, usually in film or TV or other reported speech:

"You know I kissed Poppy." "Guh..." (Single Parents, "Lance Bass Space Cump," TV show, 2019)

The lady at the counter then looked at me and I said, "I'm here to pick up a couple of suits, " and she reached out her hand and I handed her my receipt. The lady then made this " Guh... Tsss.... Pfff " sort of " what the fuck " insulted pissed off sound. (NegativePositive, "Things that need to be destroyed," Web, 2012).


From the OED:

harrumph, n. (Chiefly US)

A guttural sound made by clearing the throat.

Also figurative. as verb, to make this sound; to speak in a rasping or guttural voice; to make a comment implying disapproval.


A. interjection and also verb

An exclamation representing a slight cough or clearing of the throat, used (a) to attract attention, esp. prior to speaking (b) to express hesitation, (mock) disapproval, embarrassment, suggestiveness, etc.

  • Nope, the harrumph and ahem noises are far too harsh. I am not sure about what can cause the difference in harshness, but when I compare my production of my noise and these noises, it appears your suggestions are more constrictive. However, the location of where the articulation starts is pretty close (if not spot-on). I am not sure how close though, since the difference in sensation obscures my sense of their location.
    – user110391
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 14:53

Ugh : "used to indicate the sound of a cough or grunt or to express disgust or horror" may not be that far from what you are asking.

Or you could describe it as a "disapproving grunt" or a "disapproving growl". The first one would be probably shorter and the second one a little longer.

  • None of them would capture the sound I believe.
    – user110391
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 13:53

Apparently there is a word for that (though it is dated)

Faugh: an exclamation of disgust, scorn, etc

  • The sound I'm thinking of isn't really made in response to disgust though (maybe if the degree of disgust, or the fact that someone is disgusting them, is offensive). Also, I read another definition of faugh which described a sound I've heard solely in response to disgust. It's a sound my mother makes if she sees something disgusting, and it kind of sounds like an aspirated bilabial trill. If this is not what you're referring to by faugh, then this word might be it.
    – user110391
    Commented Oct 1, 2022 at 10:21
  • It would be good if downvoter cares to explain the reason for downvoting.
    – banuyayi
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 14:37

The definitions of the following sounds sound familiar:

  • The scoff one is closer, but it is a lot more aspirated than the sound I am talking about. The mouth doesn't need to be open for the sound that I am talking about, as the little air that is involved can escape through the nose.
    – user110391
    Commented Oct 1, 2022 at 13:55
  • I flagged your answer to be of very low quality. This is not a link only forum. You have to answer in words and explain, acknowledge the source/s of your information and research you have done. Links have the disadvantage of breaking down over time.
    – banuyayi
    Commented Oct 1, 2022 at 16:33

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