Spelling Interjections and Exclamations

Learn how to spell common interjections and exclamations used in dialogue. Includes a list of interjections used in fiction dialogue, their meanings and uses.

Source: Spelling Interjections and Exclamations

 

The words on this list are exclamations or interjections, sounds that characters make in reaction to events or dialogue or revelations. They are usually used at the beginning of a line of dialogue. They could also be used for character thoughts. Some are standard words, others are sounds used as words. (Some words have additional meanings and uses beyond those noted here.)

Keep this list handy for those odd sound words and interjections that everybody uses but no one can quite decide how to spell. Yes, you can create your own interjections or modify common ones, but be consistent within a story and across a series of stories. Add them, especially those with unusual spellings, to your style sheets.

There are options—you can extend some of these words, dramatizing them, by repeating letters, or you can draw out the sound by using hyphens. But there’s no need to go overboard by adding more than two or three repeating letters.

If I forgot any, leave a note in the comments and I’ll add them in. I purposely left out clearly recognizable words that had standard spellings. If anyone knows battle cries for military branches other than those in the U.S., let me know.

_____________________

 

aah—drawn out sound of pleasure, relief, or relaxation; the plural is often paired with ooh for an exclamation of wonder or surprise (oohs and aahs)

ah—placeholder signifying hesitation, confusion, ignorance, or even guilt, often indicating that the speaker is thinking frantically; variations are eruh, and um; also an interjection signifying understanding (Ah, I get it)

aha—exclamation of discovery or realization

ahh—exclamation of surprise or fright; also a variant of aah used as a sound of pleasure, relief, or relaxation

argh—exclamation of frustration, comparable to rats or drat; sometimes used for a pirate’s exclamation

arrr—pirate’s sound of agreement; pirate’s exclamation

aw—mild exclamation of protest, disappointment, or entreaty (Aw, I didn’t mean it.)

aww—exclamation over the cuteness of something

bah—old-fashioned exclamation of dismissal or contempt; compare to the contemporary word so  (Bah, who cares? Bah! Humbug!)

beh—variation of bah

blah—interjection used as filler (typically written three times) to show that either someone droned on about a topic or what had been said was predictable and/or commonplace and all parties now listening understand what was said without it being necessary to repeat what was said (And then she moaned about her husband. You know, blah blah blah.)

blech—mild to medium exclamation of disgust

blergh—an interjection of any combination of disgust, boredom, dissatisfaction, and other negative emotions; also blurgh and blargh; probably from a combination of bleh and argh and/or ugh.

bwahaha—less common variant of mwahaha; often bwah-ha-ha

criminy—mild swear word, somewhat old-fashioned; euphemism for Christ

duh—exclamation of exasperation or disdain over the explanation of something obvious

eh—mild exclamation of unconcern or indifference (Eh, who cares.); solicitation to repeat something (Eh, what was that?); question tag (You heard about it, eh?)

er—placeholder signifying hesitation, confusion, ignorance, or even guilt, often indicating that the speaker is thinking frantically; may be followed by an ellipsis (Er . . . I’m not sure.); variations are ah, um, and uh 

erm—variation of er (I’ve never seen this in a published book that I can recall and never heard a real person say it, but it shows up in a lot of manuscripts I see)

ew—exclamation of disgust, typically over something nasty; can be made more dramatic by repeating letters (Ewww, that’s foul. Eeew, that stinks.)

geez—exclamation of exasperation; a mild oath to be used in place of Jesus; also sheesh

hmm—placeholder interjection signifying that the speaker is thinking or considering a response to what has been said

hooah—U.S. Army sound of agreement or affirmation; battle cry; [pronounced hua, accent on hoo]

hooyah—U.S. Navy sound of agreement or affirmation; battle cry

huh—interjection used to signify a dawning revelation or admittance of ignorance over a piece of information (Huh, is that so.); also used as a question tag to solicit agreement (I guess this means we’re leaving now, huh?)

humph—mild exclamation of disagreement or reluctant agreement; also exclamation of displeasure; variations include hmph, hrmph, harumph, harumpf, harrumph; old-fashioned and often put in the mouths of elderly men and crotchety women

hrmph, hmph, harumph, harumpf, harrumph—variations of humph

ick—exclamation of disgust; also yuck

meh—old-fashioned mild interjection of dismissal or indifference, much like beh

mm-hmm—murmur of agreement that may also indicate inattention; much like uh-huh

mmm—murmur of pleasure

mwahaha—mock-sinister laugh, often used for a villain; also mwah-ha-ha; variant is bwahaha

nah—informal no; opposite of yeah; [pronounced two ways: like the n-a in nap or the n-o in not rather than as nay]

nuh-uh—childish argumentative no; opposite of yuh-huh; [stress on uh]

oh—word signifying comprehension or surprise (often overused in dialogue); can be drawn out by repeating letters (Ohhh, it’s so beautiful.);  [pronounced like the letter o]

oof—like oomph, often comic or exaggerated sound of breath being knocked from someone from a blow to the belly; [a short sound, usually not changed by adding letters]

ooh—exclamation of wonder or surprise; often paired with aah (oohs and aahs); [rhymes with Sue and dew]

oomph—sound of exhalation of breath, often after a collision (may be comic)

oorah—U.S. Marine sound of agreement or affirmation; battle cry

ow—exclamation of pain

pfft—old-fashioned sound of dismissal or unconcern (not common in contemporary fiction); also phfft

phew—exclamation of relief, often used humorously in contemporary fiction

phooey—mild interjection used to show disagreement or disbelief; also a mild curse word akin to darn or drat, but more genteel

pshaw—old-fashioned exclamation of contempt or disagreement (not common in contemporary fiction except in historicals and as deliberate reference to its use in the past); [the p is pronounced]

psst—(usually) quiet interjection used to gain the attention of someone else

sheesh—exclamation of exasperation; a mild oath used in place of Jesus; also geez

shh or shhh—command to keep quiet, often accompanied by finger to lips

shssh—variation of shhh

shush—command to keep quiet, a combination of shh and hush; more a true word than a sound

ta-da—exclamation to express success or to point attention at something

ugh—exclamation of mild disgust

uh—placeholder signifying hesitation, confusion, ignorance, or even guilt, often indicating that the speaker is thinking frantically; may be followed by an ellipsis (Uh, I think it’s that one. Uh . . . I’m not sure that what you’re saying is true.); variations are ah, er, and um

uh, uh, uh—command, often to young children, to stop doing something (Uh, uh, uh, don’t touch that.)

uh huh—interjection signifying understanding and sometimes, but not always, agreement (use it to show someone is saying they understand what is being said even though they might not agree with what is said); informal yes; also uh-huh

uh oh—exclamation of dismay or anticipation of something bad happening; used often by young children; also uh-oh

uh uh—informal no; also uh-uh and unh-unh

um—placeholder signifying hesitation, confusion, ignorance, or even guilt, often indicating that the speaker is thinking frantically; variations are ah, er, and uh; often repeated as um, um, um (Um, um, um, I’m thinking) and stretched out as ummm

unh-unh—informal no; variant of uh uh and uh-uh

whoa—exclamation of surprise or shock (not woah)

yay—exclamation of triumph or victory (Yay, we won!)

yea—yes;  used in the context of a spoken vote; rhymes with and is often paired with nay

yeah—contemporary informal yes; opposite of nah (Yeah, I get it.); [does not rhyme with  nay, and I freely admit I don’t know how to explain how this one sounds—how about a link to Merriam-Webster, which has a decent recording of the word?]

yech—variation of yuck, an exclamation of disgust

yeow—exclamation of pain, shock, or surprise; also yow

yikes—exclamation of (negative) surprise or shock; comic

yow—variation of yeow, an exclamation of pain, shock, or surprise

yowza—exclamation of pleasure or pleased surprise or a pleasant shock

yuck—exclamation of disgust; also ick

yuh-huh—argumentative or insistent childish yes; [accent on huh]; opposite of nuh-uh

About Ellie Masters

Just enjoying and exploring a passion for writing science fiction, fantasy, and romance...
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