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Eh (pronounced /ˈeɪ/ or /ˈɛ/ in English) is a spoken interjection in English, Armenian, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese meaning something along the lines of "Repeat that, please". It is also commonly used as a method for inciting an answer, as in "it's nice here, eh?" Also, it can also be used to express indifference, similar to "meh". In North America, it is most commonly associated with Canada.

The spelling of this sound in English is very different from the common usage of these letters. The vowel is sounded in one of the continental manners, and the letter h is used to indicate that it is long, as though the origin of the spelling were German.

It is an invariant question tag, unlike the "is it?" and "have you?" tags that have, with the insertion of not, different construction in positive and negative questions.

There is some question about the origin of the term. A popular theory[citation needed] is that the "eh" sound is similar to the "ey" sound that a native French speaker will stereotypically say when pronouncing the word "Hey". Dropped Hs are also common to many British dialects.




The only usage of eh? that is exclusive to Canada, according to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, is for "ascertaining the comprehension, continued interest, agreement, etc., of the person or persons addressed" as in, "It's four kilometres away, eh, so I have to go by bike." In that case, eh? is used to confirm the attention of the listener and to invite a supportive noise such as "Mm" or "Oh" or "Okay". It essentially is an interjection meaning, "I'm checking to see you're listening so I can continue."

"Eh" can also be added to the end of a declarative sentence to turn it into a question. For example: "The weather is nice." becomes "The weather is nice, eh?" This same phrase could also be taken as "The weather is nice, don't you agree?". In this usage, it is virtually identical to the Japanese "ne?"

It can also be used as a sarcastic remark or insult, which mocks a grunt.

The usage of "eh" in Canada is occasionally mocked in the United States, where some view its use - along with aboot, an approximation of a Canadian raising-affected pronunciation of about - as a stereotypical Canadianism. Such stereotypes have been reinforced in popular culture, and were famously lampooned in South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Singer Don Freed in his song "Saskatchewan" declares "What is this 'Eh?' nonsense? I wouldn't speak like that if I were paid to." There are many merchandise items on the market today that use this phrase, such as t-shirts and coffee mugs.[1]

It is often joked about by Canadians as well, and is sometimes even a part of the national identity.[1] For example, a Canadian national team is sometimes referred to as the "Eh? team". Likewise, at one of their concerts, a member of the Canadian Brass, referring to their arrangement of the jazz standard "Take the A Train," said that they'd considered calling it "Take the train, eh?". A classic joke illuminating this: "How did they name Canada? The letters were thrown in a bag, and the first one to be picked was 'C' eh?, then 'N' eh? and finally 'D' eh?"

In the Canadian animated reality show Total Drama Island, Ezekiel is one of the twenty teens on the show and is a stereotypical Canadian redneck who uses the term "Eh", usually at the end of a sentence.

New Zealand

While not as commonly lampooned as the Canadian “eh,” there are few features that are, “more eagerly recognized by New Zealanders as a marker of their identity than the tag particle, “eh.” [2]. This commonly used and referenced feature of New Zealand English (NZE) is one of great controversy to many communication scholars as it is both a mark of cultural identity and simultaneously a means to parody those of a lower socioeconomic status. In New Zealand culture, the use of “eh” is frequently linked with two main groups of people, the first being young, working-class, suburban Pākehā women and the second being working class Māori men. The Pākehā are New Zealanders of British or European descent and Maori are indigenous Polynesians.

A 1994 study by communications scholar Miriam Meyerhoff sought to examine the function of “eh” in New Zealand culture. She hypothesized that “eh” did not function as a clarification device as frequently believed, but instead served as a means of establishing solidarity between individuals of similar ethnic descent. In her research, Meyerhoff analyzed conversations between an interviewer and an interviewee of either Pākehā or Māori descent and calculated the frequency of “eh” in the conversation. In order to yield the most natural speech, Meyerhoff instructed the interviewers to introduce themselves as a “friend of a friend,” to their respective interviewees. Her results showed Maori men as the most frequent users of “eh” in their interviews. As Maori are typically of a lower socio-economic status, Meyerhoff proposed that “eh” functioned as a verbal cue that one reciprocated by another individual signified both shared identity and mutual acceptance. Therefore, in the context of Meyerhoff’s research, “eh” can be equated as a device to establish and maintain a group identity[2]. This phenomenon sheds light on the continuous scholarly debate questioning if language determines culture or culture determines language.


The usage of the word is widespread throughout much of the UK, particularly in Wales and the north of England, in places such as Yorkshire, Lancashire, and the Midlands, and also in various parts of Scotland. It is normally used to mean "what?".

"Eh?" used to solicit agreement or confirmation is also heard regularly amongst speakers in Australia (where it is sometimes spelled "ay" on the assumption that "eh" would rhyme with "heh" or "meh"). In the Caribbean island of Barbados the word "nuh" acts similar. The usage in New Zealand is similar, and is more common in the North Island. It is also heard in the United States, especially Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (although the Scandinavian-based Yooperism "ya" is more common), Oklahoma and the New England region. In New England and Oklahoma, it is also used as a general exclamation as in Scotland and the Channel Island of Jersey

Since usage of the word "eh" is not as common in the United States as it is in Canada, it is often used by Americans, and indeed Canadians themselves, to parody Canadian English.

The equivalent in South African English is "hey". Eh is also a short way to say, 'What?' in English


In Sweden, "Eh" is most commonly used as a way of filling out a sentence when speaking, usually when the person talking has not yet come up with a way of continuing what he/she just said similary to uh; "there's much, eh, difficulty in the economy."

Similar terms in other languages

  • Japanese Hei? ([heː]) is a common exclamation in Japanese and is used to express surprise. It is also used when the listener did not fully understand or hear what the speaker said. It can be lengthened to show greater surprise (e.g. Heeeeee?!). Nei/ne?/naa are extremely similar to the Canadian eh, being statement ending particles which solicit or assume agreement, confirmation, or comprehension on the part of the listener.
  • Hain is used in Mauritian Creole and it can express a variety of ideas. It is generally used in context of a conversation and is generally interpreted very quickly.
  • Wa or wahr ("true" or "correct") or nä/ne/net (from nicht, "not") are used in (very) colloquial German to express a positive interrogative at the end of a sentence, much as Eh is used in Canadian English. Statements expressed in Standard German are more commonly phrased in negative terms and outside of colloquial usage the ending interrogative is often nicht wahr, which invites a response of stimmt ("agreed", literally "that's right").
  • Swiss German "Oder" which means "or" in English is commonly used interrogatively as "... or what?" at the end of sentences in German-speaking Switzerland. It is used more as a matter of conversational convention than for its meaning. The term Äh is also used, which is pronounced similarly to eh in English and has the same meaning.
  • Egyptian Arabic "ايه؟" ([ˈeːh]) as "What? say it again". It could also mean "What's wrong?" either in a concerned manner or a more aggressive one, depending on the tone used to pose the question. Besides, it could refer to an exclamation.


  1. ^ Will Ferguson & Ian Ferguson, How to be a Canadian (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre) 65-68
  2. ^ a b Meyerhoff, Miriam. (1994). Sounds Pretty Ethnic, eh?: A Pragmatic Particle in New Zealand English. Language in Society, 23 (3), 367-388. Retrieved February 26, 2009 from

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