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a sound of disapproval


harrumph (a clearing of the throat) = Räusperer —— to harrumph = sich räuspern, missbilligend knurren



“Here stand the great and the good, the not-so-good and the perfectly chilling. Castro casts a marbled eye over Engels. Engels glances warily over at Mao. … Churchill HARRUMPHS silently in another corner of the garden."

Christopher Helman — Forbes, 'Inside Harlan Crow's Garden Of Despots’ (19th April 2023)

“If your office has hot-desking, how do you reserve your favourite seat (by the spider plant, with the view of the train line, out of view of the colleague who HARRUMPHS whenever you open a packet of crisps) without getting in at 7am?”

Nell Frizzell — The Guardian (17th May 2022)

Did you

noun & verb

- a noisy clearing of the throat

- to clear the throat audibly in a self-important manner

Oxford Languages / Merriam-Webster


The exact etymology of "harrumph" is a bit unclear, but it appears to have originated in the early 20th century as a representation of the sound one makes when clearing the throat. It's often associated with a haughty or pompous attitude, as if someone is making a sound of self-importance or condescension.

While its origins are somewhat uncertain, the word has become a colourful and informal expression in the English language.


- chortle = laut auflachen, glucksen

- chuckle = kichern

- coo = gurren

- giggle = kichern

- groan = stöhnen

- guffaw = lachen, prusten

- hiss = zischen

- jeer = höhnen, spotten

- mutter = murren

- murmur = murmeln

- purr = schnurren

- sigh = seufzen

- snicker = kichern, schmunzeln

- snarl = knurren

- snort = schnauben

- titter = kichern, tuscheln

- whine = jammern

According to some researchers, the first human languages developed from onomatopoeia, that is, imitations of sounds in nature, in particular those of animals.

Sceptical of such explanations, the German philologist Max Müller created a humorous typology of interjections involving barking dogs, nasty smells, and ringing bells: the "bow-wow theory", the "pooh-pooh theory", and the "ding-dong theory".


The core synonyms convey the sense of a guttural throat-clearing sound expressing disapproval or irritation. Related words imply different tones of harsh vocalization, grumbling, or emphatic complaining:

ahem, bark, bellow, bluster, bray, Bronx cheer, clearing of the throat, complain, cough, crow, fuss, fulmination, gnash, gripe, grouch, grumble, grunt, growl, gulp, HARRUMPH, humph, rail, raspberry, roar, scold, snarl, sniff, snuffle, snort, splutter, throat-clearing

SMUGGLE OWAD into a conversation, say something like:

“Our English teacher used to silence our classroom with a stern HARRUMPH whenever she heard giggling in the back row.”

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