What does the sound "eh" mean (with rising intonation)?

It's difficult to describe the sound I mean, but I suppose it's a drawn out /œ/ or /ø̞/, with quickly rising intonation. Some speakers rise a lot the intonation, but others start high already and so don't rise the intonation very much.

Italians often reply this sound when asked a question to which the answer would be "yes," but it's something more than that.

E.g. something like "Has your wife got a dog?", to which the reply is "Eh!" (meaning that she not only has 5 dogs, but runs a dog breeding business).

Can someone explain the meaning to me?

I live in Piedmont, I don't know if it's common across all of Italy.

  • 1
    I think it is an abbreviation of 'urca'. Aug 24, 2014 at 22:00
  • 2
    Is it accompanied by any gesture? Perhaps a hand palm drawing circles in the air (with thumb pointing upwards)?
    – user193
    Aug 25, 2014 at 2:58
  • 1
    I am not sure what you are asking. Aren't you explaining the meaning of the sound in the question itself? If you want a synonym, it would be something along the lines of “Eccome!”
    – DaG
    Aug 25, 2014 at 7:43

2 Answers 2


If I understood correctly what you mean, I think the most appropriate onomatopoeia is "eh!".
It is indeed pronounced roughly like "ö!" (although the sound can be more or less open depending on the speaker), but it's longer than a normal vowel and the intonation is ascending.
The meaning of this sound is, "altro che!", "eccome!": your answer is not simply affirmative, but strongly affirmative.

"Tua moglie ha dei cani?"
"Eh! [as in: Altro che se ne ha!, Ne ha parecchi!, etc.]"

  • as every strong affirmative, it can also be used in a sarcastic way. Context usually disambiguates.
    – Agos
    Aug 29, 2014 at 11:05
  • @Agos That's correct. Feel free to edit my answer with more information. Aug 29, 2014 at 12:43

You can check , chose and hear the sound you mean here. You where right it is a sound in the quadrant of u, but it has no r-colour. It is not listed in IPA, as is not a single sound but it is like a glide between 'ɵ' and 'ʊ', and maybe still a bit backward (to u): / ɵɵɵʊ/

It has been explained that it means: 'e[c]come (no)!', another good equivalent is : 'hai voglia!'

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