What are verbs for phlegm? For example, what is the verb to describe the action of blowing out the phlegm from throat? Or the verb to describe someone has or generates phlegm in one's throat?

  • 1
    Thank you all very much and suggestion! The verb for projecting phlegm onto ground or someone's face is to spit. In fact it is still my original question. I am looking for plural verbs for phlegm, and cough up is one example. I edited it.
    – Superuser
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 16:15
  • 2
    Ahem! This is a good question! :)
    – Maulik V
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 17:28
  • a verb does not describe. a verb does.
    – Keltari
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 0:24
  • ?I dont get it.
    – Superuser
    Commented Oct 22, 2015 at 1:38

4 Answers 4


To add to the verbs above, there's also "hawk" which can be used, although it might fall under the remit of 'slang'

hawk (hôk)

  1. To clear or attempt to clear the throat by or as if by coughing up phlegm.

  2. To clear the throat of (phlegm).

  3. An audible effort to clear the throat by expelling phlegm.

  • I have never seen this word written before, but I hear it all the time (!) . Many people pronounce it as if it were spelled hack. I don't know if they are different words, or different pronunciations, or what the distinction even means in a word that is so much more common in spoken English than written English. Also frequently used to describe how cats disengorge hairballs.
    – Adam
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 14:54
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    @Adam I definitely think it's slang, but in my experience, hack and hawk are different words. If you're coughing a lot, you're "hacking up a lung". If you're doing something similar to clearing your throat to produce something that you can spit out, you're "hawking a loogie". Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 15:08
  • @JoshuaTaylor Would you say that a cat hacks up a hairball or hawks up a hairball?
    – Adam
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 15:41
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    @Adam I'm not sure whether I'd use either for a cat with a hairball, but if I had to choose, probably "hawk", since it's producing something that comes out. "Hacking up a lung", despite "up" suggesting that something is produced, doesn't have as much suggestion (to me) that something is coming out. Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 16:15
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    @Joshua: Quite. OED specifically defines a hacking cough as a short, dry, frequently repeated cough, where dry strongly implies "non-expectorant" (i.e. - no mucus is brought up). On the other hand, they define the relevant sense of the verb hawk as To make an effort to clear the throat of phlegm; to clear the throat noisily. So I absolutely agree your point about hawk "suggesting that something is produced". Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 16:51

As James Webster said, coughs up could be used:

Force (something, especially blood) out of the lungs or throat by coughing


You can also use the verb expectorate:

Cough or spit out (phlegm) from the throat or lungs


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    +1 for 'expectorate'. I remember my old days when we used to classify cough sirups - anti-tussive, expectorant, mucolytic and all! :)
    – Maulik V
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 10:47

One usually "coughs up" phlegm.

v.intr To expel air from the lungs suddenly and noisily, often to keep the respiratory passages free of irritating material.

v.tr. To expel by coughing


As others have suggested, "cough up" is a standard term now. For an older or more formal term, you might try:


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