European Fillers

“You live a new life for every new language you speak. If you know only one language, you live only once.”

Czech saying

European fillers - uh - illustrationA two-person conversation can sometimes be like a tennis match. Inevitably there are short periods of silence as people pause to let the other person take over the speaking. But sometimes a speaker doesn’t want to give up his/her turn and instead wants a little extra time to think about what he is going to say next. The speaker uses then a “filler sound” to signal this. A filler can be a sound or word that is spoken in conversation by one participant to signal to others that he/she has paused to think but has not yet finished speaking. Of course, different languages have different characteristic filler sounds; in English, we say “uh…” or “um…”, in French “euh…”, in German we say “äh…” and in Polish “yyy…” Bill Bryson, in his book The Mother Tongue, said that filler sounds are typically the most common default sounds in each language. So let’s discover the most used filler sounds and words throughout Europe!

European Fillers


Filler - Portugal - ééhã…

In Portugal, do not hesitate to let your interlocutor wait for your answer by pronouncing a long “é…” or a “…”. Those filler sounds are perfect to fill the silence between two words in a sentence, whenever you need more precious time to think or keep the floor! Some other filler words are “então” (“so”), “tipo” (“like”) and “bem” (“well”).


Filler - Spain - ee

Did you know that fillers in Spanish are called muletillas? It means either a pet word, a walking stick or a crutch. The most common mulettilla in spanish is just “e…” [e]. But Spanish people love fillers, and they use words such as “o sea” (which roughly means “I mean” and literally means “it means”), “¿Vale?” (“right?”) or “¿no?”.

France – Belgium – Switzerland

Filler - France - euheuh… 

French speakers use and abuse in their sentences of the filler sound “euh…” [ø]. In conversation, it shows hesitation or it signals to others that the speaker has paused to think but has not yet finished speaking. Additional filler words used by youngsters include genre (“kind”), comme (“like”), and style (“style”; “kind”).


Filler - Iceland - ohoh…

Icelandic is already a rather funny language. So are their fillers ! A common filler is hérna (“here”). sko meaning ‘so’, is also used as a hesitation sound just like hérnaÞúst, a contraction of þú veist (“you know”), is also popular among younger speakers.


Filler - Ireland - ehmehm…

In Irish Gaelic, as in Heberno-English, the most common sound filler is “ehm…” There are also common word fillers such as abair [abˠəɾʲ] (which means “say”), bhoil [wɛlʲ] (meaning “well”), and era [ˈɛɾˠə].


Filler - United-Kingdom - uhum… uh…

In English, the most common filler sounds are “uh…” [ʌ], “er…” [ɜː], and “um…” [ʌm]. A researcher even said that English people tend to use “um…” when they’re trying to decide what to say, and “uh…” when they’re trying to decide how to say it. Amazing, isn’t it ? Among youths, the filler words “like“, “y’know“, “I mean“, “so“, “actually“, “basically“, and “right” are among the more prevalent. As the anthropologist Stephen Juan said: “Everything we humans say is either meaningless or meaningful. A lot of people never learn the difference.”


Filler - Norway - ehøheh

Norwegians usually use the filler sounds “øh…” or “eh…” to make a break in their sentence. But they also have a lot of word fillers such as på en måte (“in a way”), bare (“Just”) ikke sant (literally “not true?”, meaning “don’t you agree?”, “right?”, “no kidding” or “exactly”), vel (“well”), and liksom (“like”). There are regional variations as well : in Bergen, sant (“true”) is often used instead of ikke sant ; in the Trøndelag region, skjø’ (comes from “skjønner” which means “see(?)” or “understand?”) is also a common filler.


Filler - Sweden - ehöh… eh…

Swedish fillers are called utfyllnadsord. Just as in Norway, the most common filler sounds are “öh…” and “eh…” Some of the most used words as fillers are ja (“yes”), ba (comes from “bara”, which means “only”), asså or alltså (“therefore”, “thus”), va (comes from “vad”, which means “what”), and liksom and typ (both similar to the English “like”).


Filler - Finland - öööö

Finns are particularly renowned for being introverted and long discussions are rather unusual in Finland. But once you have the opportunity to meet an extroverted Finn, you will notice that he uses a lot the sound-filler “öö…” In common discussion, there are a couple of words also being used as fillers, such as niinku (“like”) and tuota (“that”).


Filler - Denmark - ohøh…

In Denmark, you save your  turn in a conversation with the most common filler sound “øh…”. It is pretty much just a Danish spelling of the English “uh...”

Netherlands – Belgium

Filler - Netherlands - ehmehm…

When trying to think of what to say, Dutch people say “ehm…” or “eh…” There are also words being used as fillers, such as dus (“thus”), eigenlijk (“actually”), zo (“so”), nou (“well”) in Netherlandic Dutch. In Belgian Dutch, one can also hear allez (“come on”, borrowed from the Belgian French speakers), (a)wel (“well”) or weet je? (“you know?”)… Allez !

Germany – Austria – Switzerland

Filler - Germany - ähäh… hm…

German traditional filler sounds include “äh…” [ɛː] andhm…”. In German filler words are known as “Füllwörter” (das Füllwort) or more precisely “Modalpartikeln” (die Modalpartikel). It must also be said that in comparison to many other languages, German is very rich in these words. They are used to convey the attitude of the speaker and what he or she is saying. It includes for instance so [zoː], tja, also and eigentlich (“actually”).


Filler - Italy - uhuh… eh…

When trying to keep the floor in a discussion, Italians use as sound fillers “uh…” or “eh…”. But they also have a lot of filler words such as “tipo” (“like”), “ecco” (“there”), “cioè” (“actually”) “diciamo” (“we say”), “allora” (“well, then”)… In Italy, you might also be able to “save your place” in a discussion using body language. A lot of people use their hands during pauses to show that they’re trying to think of what to say next. Cliché you say?


Filler - Malta - lala

In Maltese and Maltese English, mela (“then”) is a common filler word. It can be used to affirm something, such as in “Are you going to mary’s dinner party tonight?” and the answer would be “mela!” , meaning, “sure!”. The word “la…” is a common sound filler.

Czech Republic

Filler - Czech Republic - mmmm… uh…

Czech fillers are called “slovní vata“, meaning “word cotton/padding”, or “parasitické výrazy“, meaning “parasitic expressions”. And this is actually about what filler words are ! The most frequent sound fillers are “mm…” and “uh…”. The most frequent word fillers are “čili” (“or”) “takže” (“so”), “prostě” (“simply”), “jako” (“like”).


Filler - Slovakia - mmmm… uh…

In Slovakia, “oné” (“that”), “tento” (“this”), “proste” (“simply”), or “akože” (“it’s like…”) are used as word fillers. “mm…” and “uh…” are used as sound fillers. The Hungarian “izé” (or izí in its Slovak pronunciation) can also be heard, especially in parts of the country with a large Hungarian population. “Ta” is a filler typical of Eastern Slovak and one of the most parodied features.


Filler - Poland - yyyyyy… eee…

Poland’s most common filler sound is “yyy…” [ɨ] and also “eee…” [ɛ] (both like English “um” or “uh”) and while common its use is frowned upon. Other word fillers include, “no” [nɔ] (like English “well”), “wiesz” [vjeʂ] (“you know”) or “po prostu” (“just” or “basically”)…


Filler - Lithuania - eeeeee…

When a Lithuanian wants to signal to others that he/she has paused to think but has not yet finished speaking, he says “eee…”, “am…” or “nu…”. In Lithuania žinai (“you know”), ta prasme (“meaning”), tipo (“like”) are also common word fillers.


Filler - Latvia - eeee…

Not particularly original, Latvians use as well the usual filler sound “ee…”  to express hesitation when speaking.


Filler - Estonia - eeee… ää… öö…

In Estonia, when you can’t think of anything to say, “ee…”, “ää…” or “öö…” are what naturally comes out. There are also lots of terms that Estonian use as filler words in there conversations.


Filler - Belarus - ЭЭ-э…

In Belarus, fillers are called “слова-паразиты” (“vermin words”) and the most common sound filler is “Э-э…” (“eh”). Other filler words are “вот” (“here it is”), “это” (“this”), “того” (“that”), “ну” (“well”), “значит” (“it means”), “так” (“so”), “как его” (“what’s it [called]”), “типа” (“like”), “andкак бы” (“[just] like”).


Filler - Ukraine - ee…

When Ukrainian listeners hear the sound filler “e…”, they continue listening rather than start talking. This can be quite practical in some situations… Ukrainian also have filler words such as “ну” (“Nu (well)”), “і” (“and”), “цей” (“this”), “той-во” (“this one”) that they use tremendously in their speeches and discussions.

Romania – Moldova

Filler - Romania - aă…

Romanians and Moldovans have a rather simple filler sound “ă…” [ə] which can be lengthened according to the pause in speech, rendered in writing as “ăăă…” ! The filler words păi [pəj] is widely used by almost anyone, whereas deci [detʃʲ] (“therefore”) is particularly common among youngsters.


Filler - Hungary - oő…

In Hungary, filler sound “ő…” occurs fairly frequently in conversational speech. Common hungarian filler words include “hát” (“now”), “nos” (well…) and “asszongya” (a variant of “azt mondja”, which means “it says here…”). Among intellectuals, “ha úgy tetszik” (“if you like”) is used as filler.


Filler - Slovenia - ee…

The filler “e…” occurred fairly frequently in conversational speech in Slovenia. Slovene filler words include pač (“but”, although it has lost that meaning in colloquial, and it is used as a means of explanation), a ne? (“right?”), and no (“well”) are some of the fillers common in central Slovenia, including Ljubljana.


Filler - Albania - eeeeee…

You need a brief moment of reflection when speaking in Albanian (even if is sounds a bit uncommon) ? Just pronounce a long “eee…” [e] to get some rest in your speech.

Croatia – Serbia – Bosnia and Herzegovina

Filler - Croatia - yxyx…

Yx…” This is the most common sound filer in Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian. There, speakers also vocalize an “ovaj“, “onaj“, “znači” (“means”) or “to jest” (“this”, “that” and “that is”). In Serbian, the filler word “Jebote” is inserted everywhere in informal Serbian speech, somewhat like “like” in English. Use it, however, with some care, as it more literally means “f***”.


Filler - Bulgaria - ъъ…

Bulgarian common sound filler is “ъ…” (“uh”). But Bulgarians also use and abuse the filler words “амии” (“amii”), “тъи” (“tui”, “so”), “така” (“tala”, “thus”), “добре” (“dobre”, “well”), “такова” (“takova”, very roughly “this” or “that”) and “значи” (“znachi”, “it means”) and “нали” (“nali”, “isn’t it”).


Filler - Greece - εε… εμ

You speak Greek ? Good for you. So just say “ε…” (e) or “εμ…” (em) whenever you need more time to think. When speaking greek, pay attention not to repeat “λοιπόν” (“lip on”, “so”) and “καλά” (“kala”, “good”) too much: they are common fillers.


Filler - Turkey - eeeeee… ııı… ooo…

Pay attention if you speak English in Turkey because “um…” means vagina (spelt “am”). So Turkish people say ““eee”, “ııı”, “ooo” instead. They also use “hani” or “bildiğin gibi” which means “you know”.


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