I'm not sure how to explain this in English, since I haven't seen this exact phenomenon used by English-speakers, so I'm looking for an efficient way to explain the phenomenon in English.

The closest equivalent to what I mean would be the "uh" I've seen in American English. An example would be a quote used as the name of a research article I've recently found: “I'm Not Sure I Can Handle the Kids, Especially, the, uh, You Know Special Ed Kids”.

In some other cultures, instead of "uh", it's more acceptable to actually say a word or a short phrase that's either literally meaningless or has a meaning but adds nothing to the conversation, but is instead used as a pause for speaker to collect his thoughts or to process newly gained information without actually making a break in speaking, like for example the "you know" from the quote I posted.

So I'm looking for a short phrase or a word that can be used to refer to the above-described words or short phrases.


I believe you might be looking for filler.

In linguistics, a filler is a sound or word that is spoken in conversation by one participant to signal to others a pause to think without giving the impression of having finished speaking. [...] Different languages have different characteristic filler sounds; in English, the most common filler sounds are uh /ʌ/, er /ɜː/, and um /ʌm/. Among the youths, the fillers "like", "y'know", "I mean", "so", "actually", "basically", and "right" are among the more prevalent.

  • That seems to be the thing I'm looking for. – AndrejaKo Sep 13 '16 at 21:37
  • Yes, but I have a feeling there are better names for this, like pauses, breaks, etc. Filler might not be the most "common" fit. The comments in this post suggest vocalized pauses and hemming and hawing. Let's see what others say. – Em. Sep 13 '16 at 21:49
  • "uh" and similar are called interjections in most dictionaries, but @AndrejaKo is looking for a specific term established by usage, and I don't think there is one. However, caesura from prosody might be pressed into service. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Sep 13 '16 at 22:06


is the general term for additional words used to create an effect.

A wonderful example of the usage of "fillers" is the show Just A Minute on BBC Radio4, where contestants must speak on a subject for 60 seconds

"without hesitation, repetition or deviation"

In your particular case, you are referring to

hesitation fillers

which are used to gain time while formulating what to say, usually in response to an answer.

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