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"Ow!" "Ack!" "Yikes!" No doubt, anyone familiar with comic books is well versed in these pithy little utterances. Interjections (or, as they're sometimes-somewhat misleadingly-called, exclamations) are words or short phrases that stand apart from the rest of a sentence grammatically or appear on their own without a subject and verb. Because they're often used to exclaim, interjections often pack an emotional punch that can make fictional dialogue more realistic.
Key Takeaways: Interjections
- Interjections are short phrases often used to exclaim.
- They can stand on their own as sentences.
Interjections are the "outlaws of English grammar" as illustrated in this writer's other interjections piece:
"Interjections usually stand apart from normal sentences, defiantly maintaining their syntactic independence. (Yeah!) They aren't marked inflectionally for grammatical categories such as tense or number. (No sirree!) And because they show up more frequently in spoken English than in writing, most scholars have chosen to ignore them. (Aw.)"
As you read through this list, see if you can pick out the interjections that have more than one meaning or can be used in more than one way. Additional spellings or usages are listed in parentheses.
- Ah: Ah, I don't know if that's true.
- Aha: Aha! I figured it out!
- Ahem: Ahem, could you boys stop talking so we could get on with class, please?
- Alas: Alas, it was not to be.
- Amen: Amen, hallelujah, amen!
- Aw: Aw, do we have to?
- Awesome: You two are dating? Awesome!
- Aww: Aww, that's so cute!
- Bada-bing (bada-bing, bada-bing, bada-boom): "You've gotta get up close like this and-bada-BING!-you blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit." (From "The Godfather," 1972)
- Bah: Bah, humbug!
- Baloney: Oh, baloney. I don't believe that.
- Big deal: Big deal. Who cares?
- Bingo: Bingo! Right on target!
- Boo: Boo! Scared you!
- Boo-hoo: That makes me sad. Boo-hoo.
- Booyah (boo-yah): Yeah, I aced this test. Booyah!
- Boy (boy oh boy): Oh boy. Oh boy, oh boy. That's heavy, man.
- Bravo: Bravo! That was fantastic!
- Brilliant: Brilliant, luv, absolutely brilliant! (British English.)
- Brrr: Brr! Minus 30 degrees? Yuk.
- Bull: Bull. It's not 30 below zero, not really.
- Bye (bye-bye): Bye! See you later!
- Cheers: Cheers, mate! You're welcome. (British English); Cheers! Raise a toast! (American English.)
- Come on (c'mon): Come on. Hurry up.
- Cool: Oh, wow, that is so cool!
- Cowabunga: "Cowabunga, dude." ("Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles")
- Dang: Dang it! Where'd I put that?
- Darn (darn it): Darn it! I can't find the other one either!
- Dear me: Oh, dear me. What are we going to do?
- Duck: Duck! No, really! Get down!
- Duh: Well, duh. I can't believe you didn't know that.
- Eh: Eh? What?
- Enjoy: Enjoy! I hope you like it!
- Excellent: "Party time, excellent!" ("Wayne's World")
- Fabulous: Fabulous! That's just wonderful!
- Fantastic: Fantastic! I just love it!
- Fiddledeedee (fiddle-dee-dee): "Fiddle-dee-dee! War, war, war; this war talk's spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream." ("Gone With the Wind")
- Finally: Finally! I never thought that'd be done.
- For heaven's sake(s): "Oh, for heaven's sake, don't you know your Bible?" ("Little House on the Prairie")
- Fore: Fore! (Look out! in golf)
- Foul: Foul! In baseball, the ball went out of bounds, otherwise an infraction.
- Freeze: Freeze! Stop right there!
- Gee (gee whiz, gee willikers): Well gee whiz, Pa, why do I have to do that?
- Giddyap (giddyup): Giddyup, Silver! Go, horse, go!
- Golly (good golly, golly gee willikers): Golly, that sure was tasty.
- Goodbye (good-bye): Goodbye, see you again soon!
- Good grief: "Good grief, Charlie Brown." ("Peanuts")
- Good heavens: Good heavens! How did that happen?
- Gosh: “Whatever I feel like I wanna do, gosh!” ("Napoleon Dynamite")
- Great: Great! I'm so excited you'll come along!
- Great balls of fire: "Goodness gracious, great balls of fire!" ("Great Balls of Fire," Jerry Lee Lewis)
- Ha: Ha-ha! That's funny!
- Hallelujah: Glory be to God, hallelujah!
- Heavens (heavens above, heavens to Betsy): Oh, heavens! How could you think that?
- Heigh-ho: Heigh-ho neighbor! How are you?
- Hello: Hello! How are things with you?
- Help: Help! I need somebody ("Help!" The Beatles)
- Hey (hey there): Hey! Look over there!
- Hi (hiya): Hi! What's up?
- Hip, hip, hooray: We won! On the count of three, everyone: Hip, hip hooray! Hip, hip, hooray!
- Hmm (hrm): Hmm. Let me think about that for a bit.
- Ho-ho-ho: Ho-ho-ho, Merry Christmas!
- Holy mackerel (holy cow, holy moly, holy Moses, holy smokes): Holy mackerel! I can't believe it!
- Ho-hum: Ho-hum, how boring.
- Hooray (hurrah, hurray): Hooray! That's awesome!
- Howdy (howdy do): Howdy, pardner.
- Huh: Huh. I have no idea.
- Ick: Ick! How gross!
- Indeed: Indeed! I'll bet you didn't know that!
- Jeez: Jeez, do we really have to go through this now?
- Kaboom: Kaboom! It blew up!
- Kapow: And Batman hit the evildoer, kapow!
- Lordy (lordy, lordy): Oh lordy, lordy, look who's 40!
- Mama mia: Mama mia, let me go. ("Bohemian Rhapsody," Queen)
- Man: Man, that's unbelievable.
- Marvelous: Marvelous! Oh, honey, that's just wonderful.
- My: "My! I never once thought of it, Huck!" ("The Adventures of Tom Sawyer")
- My goodness (my heavens, my stars, my word): My goodness, isn't that just grand?
- Nah: Nah, it'll never work.
- No problem: Thank you. No problem.
- No way (no way José): No way! I can't believe it.
- Nope: Nope. I can't do that.
- Nuts: Nuts! I wish I didn't have to.
- Oh (oh boy, oh dear, oh my, oh my gosh, oh my goodness, oh no, oh well): Oh! That's shocking!
- OK (okay): OK, sounds great. Thank you.
- Ouch: Ouch! That hurt!
- Ow: Ow! That stung!
- Please: Would you help me, please?
- Poof: Poof! She just disappeared.
- Shh: Shh! Quiet in the library!
- Super: Super! That's fantastic!
- Swell: Swell! How great!
- Welcome: Welcome! Come in!; (You're) Welcome!
- Well: Well, I just don't know about that.
- Whoop-de-doo: Well whoop-de-doo. (sarcasm) I so don't care.
- Woo-hoo: Woo-hoo! That's fantastic!
- Wow: Wow! I love it!
- Yabba dabba doo: "Yabba dabba doo!" ("The Flinstones")
- Yadda, yadda, yadda: "Well, we were engaged to be married, uh, we bought the wedding invitations, and, uh, yada, yada, yada, I'm still single." ("Seinfeld")
- Yippee: Yippie! That's exciting!
- Yummy: Yummy! I love chocolate cake!
Single or Double-Duty Parts of Speech
Interjections have traditionally been treated as one of the eight parts of speech (or word classes). But it's worth keeping in mind that many interjections can do double or triple duty as other parts of speech. For instance, when a word such as boy or awesome appears by itself (often followed by an exclamation point in writing), it functions as an interjection:
- Boy! You have an answer for everything.
- The crew chief handed me my first paycheck. "Awesome!" I said.
But when that same word shows up syntactically integrated into a sentence, it usually operates as a different part of speech. In the following examples, boy is a noun, and awesome is an adjective:
- The boy ate a Snickers bar.
- Seeing the northern lights for the first time was an awesome experience.
Words that are used only as interjections are called primary interjections, while words that also belong to other word classes are called secondary interjections.
Oh! Here's something else to look out for. The meanings of interjections sometimes change depending on the context in which they're used. The word oh, for example, may indicate surprise, disappointment, or delight:
- Oh! I didn't see you sitting there.
- Oh… I was hoping you could stay for a while.
- Oh! I'm so glad you came!