Alternative formsEdit


  • [ʔm.ʔmː] with tense voice; also [mˈm̥m] ; also spelling pronunciation IPA(key): /əˈhɛm/
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  • Rhymes: -ɛm



  1. (onomatopoeia) the sound of a quiet cough or of clearing one's throat
  2. an exclamation or cough to get attention
    Ahem! Could we please get started?
  3. an exclamation of disapproval or annoyance
    Ahem! In case you didn't notice, I did my share of the work, too.
  4. an exclamation to indicate sarcasm
    I really (ahem!) liked the chocolate broccoli surprise.




ahem (third-person singular simple present ahems, present participle ahemming, simple past and past participle ahemmed)

  1. To cough or clear one's throat so as to draw attention.
    • 1856, Louise Chandler Moulton, Juno Clifford, page 108:
      He wouldn't have been suspected of crying for the world, but he coughed and ahemmed, and finally turned away without speaking.
    • 1858, The Peninsular and Independent Medical Journal, page 153:
      A full inspiration, preparatory to hawking, ahemming, or premeditated careful coughing, would excite an explosion of an unusually violent and persistent cough, hurrying the breath out of the poor victims.