What are the most common American English interjections for unpleasant surprise?

I am particularly interested in finding out their correct spelling.


The most common and general one is probably “ugh”.

Other than that, it sort of depends what you are reacting to.

“Ew(w)” can serve to indicate disgust, as can “yuck” or“ick”. “Yuck” has many alternate spellings, including “yech” or “yecch”. In fact, many such words are formed by imitation of a bodily reaction to an unpleasant taste or smell, so spellings tend to vary a lot. Written English is not particularly well suited for spelling out the phlegmy sounds of mock gagging.

Another class of reactions fall into the category of minced oaths, formed by a (sometimes last-minute) phoenetic deviation from an offensive expletive. Some of these have become so entrenched in English that people saying them may be unaware of their origins, and in some cases use continues even if the “un-minced” oath is no longer widely offensive. An example of this sort of thing would be “sheesh” or “jeez”, which are both corruptions of a certain ancient Nazarene’s name.

There’s a decent catalog here that includes all of the above (and also some interjections that would not be used as reactions to unpleasant surprises).

I don't know of any major regional differences in any of the above. I am speaking from an AmE perspective.


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