There's a colloquial term in some regions in English I've seen spelled hoik and hoick to refer to the noisy act of clearing the throat/nasal cavity of mucus/phlegm, usually just before spitting it out. This is different from what would in English normally be meant by the term "to clear one's throat", which is a quieter action a bit like a closed-mouth cough.

Since this doesn't seem to be considered rude or vulgar in Chinese culture as it is in many western countries, it's a lot more common. So I'm wondering there are Chinese terms for it. (Mandarin preferred but all Chinese varieties are of interest.)

1 Answer 1


You can use 咳 (ke) for the sound of clearing one's throat. It's the same character in 咳嗽, which is "cough". It is also the character used when people clear their throat to draw others attention to themselves. In this case, it is 咳咳.

  • So the same term is used for both the gentle "ahem" sound and the deep, loud, phlegmy one? Nov 17, 2013 at 17:07
  • 1
    Exactly. But when you want the deep, gross, phlegmy one, it is actually pronounced as "he" instead of "ke" (at least I read it that way. Very strict Mandarin speakers might not). Also it usually goes like "咳,呸!“ "呸" is the sound of spitting. So it's the sentence we use in text when we want to mimic the sound of "clearing one's throat and spit".
    – Pennie
    Nov 17, 2013 at 17:27
  • I can't find a reference to 咳 being pronounced as "he"; which dictionary are you using? Nov 17, 2013 at 21:47
  • @congusbongus Sorry. I honestly don't know if that's the standard Mandarin pronunciation. That's how I'll pronounce it if I see it in text and how I think it pronounces if I write it.
    – Pennie
    Nov 25, 2013 at 13:43

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