Puns in Klingon vocabulary

When creating the Klingon language, Marc Okrand made many jokes, some subtle and some less so, in his choice of words for the vocabulary of Klingon. A few of these have been officially confirmed, but many of them are conjecture and have not been confirmed with Marc Okrand. It's gotten so that recently whenever we see a new word, we try to figure out what the joke is.

A more specific list of puns on names of real people is also maintained on this wiki.

There's probably room for disagreement here about what constitutes a legitimate "joke", what is simply onomatopoeia, and what is just a coincidence. Use your own judgment. Try to keep to the format: word, part of speech, definition, comments. And also keep to the Klingon alphabetical order.

Klingon Definition Comment
bach n. shot sounds like "botch". When you miss a shot, it is a botched shot. Add that in KGT, the word bachHa' meaning "err, make a mistake (slang)" was listed as a noun, which was clearly a mistake, and being the first entry in the word list (very prominent to anyone checking for errors), almost assuredly an intentional one.
baghneQ n. spoon The original description of this term in the startrek.klingon newsgroup pointed out that it's the term nagh beQ flat rock, but with the initial sounds swapped for an unknown reason. Such sound-swapping is called a spoonerism, supposedly after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner.
baq v. terminate, discontinue "I'll be back," said by The Terminator
bargh n. flat bottomed pot for food preparation From English "barge", a type of flat-bottomed boat or vessel
baS n. metal "Base" metal
ba'qIn n. saddle From Back in the Saddle Again, a song made famous by country singer Gene Autry
beb n. roof "Babe Ruth", a famous baseball player
bech v. suffer "Bitch" and moan
ben n. years ago how long has it "been"?
bertlham n. end (of an opera, play, story, speech) Refers to Bertram, a main character from Shakespeare's All's Well that Ends Well
bettI' n. aluminium Probably from Betty Crocker, a brand of kitchen supplies including aluminium pans and foils
bey n. howl, wail From English "bay", a howling protracted barking sound
bID n. half Acronym of Latin bis in die "twice a day"
bIghHa' n. prison, jail From English "big house", a slang term for a jail or penitentiary
bIm n. second note of nonatonic scale See yu
bInglan n. hypothesis The English word is from Greek ὑπόθεσις (hupóthesis) "base, basis, proposal", literally "a placing underneath"; Klingon bIng "area underneath", lan "to place, to put"
bIr v. be cold "Brrrrr!" and beer must be cold
bI'rel tlharghDuj n. B'rel-Class Scout (a type of scout ship) The tlhargh part of this term comes from "Clark" as in "Lewis and Clark", a rather famous pair of scouts.
bI'reS n. beginning (of an opera, play, story, speech, this refers to the opening section of such a performance) From Hebrew בְּרֵאשִׁית (bəre¨ít) "in the beginning", also used as the title of the Book of Genesis, and of its first chapter.
bo n. feather Possibly a pun on "feather boa"
bolwI' n. traitor (slang) bol spelled backwards is lob (obey). I suppose "obey" could be considered the opposite of "betray".
bom v. sing, chant From '50s songs, like "Mr. Sandman" (which opens with people singing "bom bom bom...") or "Sh-Boom"
bo'Degh n. bird (general term) The Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds took place in Bodega Bay
buqjaj n. Friday The days from Monday to Friday pun on the lyrics of the Beatles' song Lady Madonna (cp. also ghInjaj, lojmItjaj):
—"Monday's child has learned to tie his boot-lace" (DaS "boot" → DaSjaj);
—"Tuesday afternoon is never-ending" (pov "afternoon" → povjaj);
—"Wednesday morning papers didn't come" (De' chu' ghItlh "newspaper" → ghItlhjaj);
—"Thursday night your stockings needed mending" (paSlogh "socks, stockings" → loghjaj);
—"Friday night arrives without a suitcase" (leng buq "suitcase" → buqjaj)
buq'Ir n. cube From the famous unscrambling puzzle toy, Rubik's Cube (named for its inventor, Ernő Rubik); appropriately, the letters are scrambled from their proper order
buS v. concentrate on, focus on, think only about A popular brand of crane machine game is "Plush Bus". To be successful in obtaining your plush prize, you must focus on it, and nothing else; or "plush buS"
chan n. area eastward, area towards the east "Chan" is a fairly common Chinese name. China is located in the east. Also, China is a large, significant nation in the Far East, thus chan'a', which sounds a lot like "China".
chang'eng n. pair From the names of Chang and Eng Bunker, a famous pair of conjoined twins
cha' number two The name of the dance called the cha-cha has the same syllable repeated twice
cha'bIp n. type of bird (speedy) Klingon cha' "two"; thus cha'bIp is "two beeps". In classic Warner Brothers cartoons, the Roadrunner always said "beep beep!"
cha'Do' n. type of bird (about which little is known) Klingon cha' "two"; thus cha'Do' is "two dos". The dodo, a large relative of the pigeon, went extinct in the mid-17th century and so little is known of it
cha'naS n. type of bird (digs up bugs to eat) this is a real long shot, but the final syllable might be an acronym of "National Audubon Society"
cha'par n. type of bird noted for its song Klingon cha' "two"; thus cha'par is "two pars". This is less certain than other *cha'*-bird words in Klingon, but you cannot say "Par Par" without saying "Parp", the sound of e.g. a car horn among other things.
cha'qu' n. type of bird with a noisy, repetitive cry Klingon cha' "two"; thus cha'qu' is "two coos". The cuckoo is a bird also known for a repetitive cry
che' v. rule, reign, run, preside Similar to "chair"
che'ron n. battlefield From Cheron, the name of the planet whose population was obliterated by civil war in the Star Trek episode "Let That be Your Last Battlefield"
chIq v. cross, traverse "Why did the chicken cross the road?"
chIrgh n. temple (structure) This is as close to pronouncing "church" as you can get in Klingon, since rgh is allowed, but rch is not, and the "u" in "church" is closer to I than u.
chom n. bartender As long as you keep buying drinks the bartender will be your chum.
chuy v. sneeze onomatopoeic
Daghtuj n. animal parts mixed together From English "hot dog"; Klingon tuj "be hot"
Dargh n. tea "Dark" tea, as opposed to "herbal". Perhaps Darjeeling?
DaS n. boot From the name of the submarine film Das Boot. Some of the motivation for creating the Klingon language stems from the experience of seeing Das Boot, watching the submarine crew in dark, cramped quarters barking a language the viewer didn't understand
DaSjaj n. Monday See buqjaj
Da'nal n. type of bird (unpredictable) From the name of Donald Duck, a somewhat wacky cartoon character
Da'vI' n. type of bird (unpredictable) From the name of Daffy Duck, an extremely wacky cartoon character
Der v. yaw (aircraft nose points left or right) From the second syllable of English "rudder", the control used to yaw an airplane
DeSwar n. cupboard, cabinet, fixed storage device From English "armoire"; Klingon DeS "arm"
DIb n. privilege "Dibs"
DIr n. skin In colonial times, the primary trade item between Native Americans and the British was deer skin.
DIron n. bagpipes "Drone"
Dor v. escort "Allow me to escort you to the door."
DoS n. target It looks like Okrand didn't like working with PCs before Windows. When asked, he said that's not true, but an interesting coincidence. (1)
Dup n. strategy "Dupe"
Duq n. small bowl "Duckpins", a game similar to bowling
ghab n. meat from midsection of animal "Gob"
ghagh v. gargle onomatopoeic
gham n. limb of an animal "Gam" is 1940's slang for a woman's legs
ghang v. end prematurely A lot of the acts on The Gong Show were ended prematurely
ghangwI' n. horizon Gan is Old Chinese for "horizon"
ghaptal n. equator Reversed, reads «lat pagh»: from English "lat. [latitude] zero" ← Klingon pagh "zero"
gha'tlhIq n. ode of respect long, like a gothic novel
gheb n. horn (musical instrument) The Biblical archangel expected to blow a trumpet or horn to herald God's return in modern Christian tradition is Gabriel (Klingon gheb rIl "he plays a horn")
ghem n. midnight snack Wordplay. ghem spelled backwards is megh="lunch"
ghet v. pretend From The Great Pretender, a song by Freddie Mercury
ghevI' n. gagh sauce From English "gravy"
ghIgh n. assignment, task (slang) From English "gig"
ghInjaj n. Saturday (informal) From the Beatles' song Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!: "The celebrated Mr. K., performs his feat on Saturday at Bishopsgate (Klingon ghIn pIn lojmIt)"
ghItlhjaj n. Wednesday See buqjaj
ghobe' excl. no English "go" plus -be' - "no go"
ghol n. opponent Your opponent is your "goal"
gholeq n. flake Reversed, reads «qelogh»: from Kellogg, the surname of the inventors of corn flakes
ghop n. hand Reverse wordplay with pogh "glove." Also possibly a pun on "grope"
ghoS v. approach, go away from, proceed, come, follow (a course) Steady as she "goes"
ghotI' n. fish A joke from George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, that the word "fish" in English could be spelled "ghoti": "gh" like in "enough"; "o" like in "women"; "ti" like in "nation."
ghu n. baby "Goo!"
ghup v. swallow "Gulp"
ghuS v. lower (spear) to horizontal to attack "Goose"
HaD v. study Studying is "hard"
HanDI' n. cell From German Handy, a slang term for a mobile or cell phone
Hagh v. laugh onomatopoeic
Haq n. surgery From English "hack"
Hat n. temperature From English "hot"
Hat v. be illegal From English "hot", a slang term for "stolen"
HaySIn n. bucket From the character Hyacinth Bucket, from the 1990s sitcom Keeping Up Appearances
HeD v. retreat "Head" off the enemy when they retreat
Hem v. be proud "Ahem!"
Hew n. statue From English "hew"
HIja' excl. yes, true In English, "tell me about it!" is a common means of emphatically agreeing (Klingon HIja' "tell me!")
HIq n. ale, wine "Hiccup"
HI'tuy n. dictatorship If you despise the dictator, you spit when you say his name.
HoD n. captain From the English abbreviation for "Head of Department"
HomwI' n. second toe See marwI'
HoQ v. be honored falsely, be falsely honorable possibly a pun on "hoax"
HoS n. strength, energy, power "Horse" power
Hum v. be sticky From English "humid"; a humid day may also be referred to as "sticky"
Hutvagh n. too many people or things in a place at once disclosed during a congested drive on Interstate 95; Klingon Hut "nine", vagh "five"
jaghIv n. rhythm Reversed, reads «vIghaj» "I have it, I've got it": from the title of the song I Got Rhythm, a jazz standard from the George and Ira Gershwin musical Girl Crazy
-jaj suffix may, let Wordplay upon the English interjection "mayday"; Klingon jaj "day"
jat v. speak incoherently From the English idiom "speaking in tongues"; Klingon jat "tongue"
jav n. prisoner (slang) The title character in the TV show The Prisoner was known as "Number Six"; Klingon jav "six"
jaw v. chat From English "jaw", a slang verb for "speak, chat"; also matches the other verbs of speech beginning with ja-
jentu' n. type of flightless aquatic bird From the gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua)
jeqqIj n. club, bludgeon From English "blackjack", a kind of small cudgel; Klingon qIj "black"
jey'naS n. double-headed ax Janus (from Latin Jānus, but in English often pronounced with a diphthong in the first syllable) was the Roman god of gates and doorways, depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions
jIb n. hair (on head) A "jib" is a kind of headsail; compare also the nautical expression, "cut of (someone's) jib"
jIb v. execute by hanging English "gibbet" is another name for a gallows, and as a verb is used to describe hanging up on a gibbet or executing by hanging.
jIl n. neighbor Dr. Okrand has confirmed that this is because he once had a neighbor called Jill
jIm v. heave (aircraft rising or falling without pitching) Admiral Kirk used this maneuver in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Kirk's nickname is Jim
jInbo' n. bias Reversed, reads «'obnIj»: from English "oblique" ← Klingon nIj "leak"
joQ n. rib English "rib" is slang for a joke (at someone's expense)
joy' v. torture what is torture to a Terran, might be considered joy to a Klingon
larveS n. pus Reversed, reads «Sevral»: the Klingon word spelled puS is glossed in TKD as, among others, "be several"
lay' v. promise Reverse-wordplay on "lie"
leSpal n. type of stringed instrument (mid-sized) "Les Paul", guitar legend
letbIng n. mercury (the element) Reversed, reads «ngIb tel» "ankle wing": the Roman god Mercury is noted for the aspects of the Greek God, Hermes, notably the wearing of winged sandals
lev n. roof of mouth, palate Reversed, reads «vel»: from English "velum", another term for the soft palate
le'yo' n. pride From Latin leō "lion"; a group of lions is called a pride
lIH v. begin a song In music, a "lick" is a phrase improvised by a soloist, especially on the guitar or banjo.
lIr n. type of bird (nocturnal) Edward Lear wrote a famous poem called The Owl and the Pussycat
lIw n. substitute, stand-in, temporary surrogate From French lieu "place", often used in English in the phrase "in lieu of" = "in place of"
loghjaj n. Thursday See buqjaj
lojmItjaj n. Saturday (formal) From the Beatles' song Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!: "The celebrated Mr. K., performs his feat on Saturday at Bishopsgate (Klingon ghIn pIn lojmIt)"
lol v. be in an attitude (aircraft); be in a stance, be in a pose (people animals or martial arts) From English "loll (about)"
luH v. cause (someone) to confess or reveal a secret (slang) From the English idiom "spill your guts"; Klingon luH "intestine"
lupwI' n. jitney, bus Okrand has confirmed that he lived in a town where there was a bus called a "jitney" that ran in a "loop".
mach v. be small see tIn
maHpIn n. large bowl "Ten pin" bowling. maH is the Klingon number-forming element for tens.
majaj n. plant like lettuce or cabbage The morpheme combination ma-X-jaj with a verb root can be rendered in English as "let us (do X)"; "let us" is a near-homophone of "lettuce"
marwI' n. big toe The toes follow the old children's rhyme "This Little Piggie." ➞ Toe names
may'ron n. accordion Myron Floren was an accordion legend on The Lawrence Welk Show
megh'an n. end (of stick, rope, etc.), other end from 'er'In Okrand confirmed that this is because he knows two twins--his nieces--named Megan and Erin
me' n. aunt, mother's sister Reversed, reads «'em»: from Auntie Em, a character from The Wizard of Oz. Cf. also 'IrneH
mIl v. be formerly honored Without doubt a reference to Richard Milhouse Nixon, a formerly-honored president of the United States
mIl'oD n. sabre bear From Smilodon, the best-known genus of sabre-toothed cats
mIQ v. fry, deep-fry "McDonald's"
mIy v. brag "Me"
mob v. be alone Reverse-wordplay on English "mob", a term for a large crowd
moD v. hurry There is a musical group called Depeche Mode, from French dépêche "hurry!" Marc Okrand said he did not remember if he had done this deliberately, but that it was possible.
mol v. bury "Mole"
mol n. grave mol "bury" spelled backwards is lom ("corpse")
mon v. smile From Leonardo da Vinci's famed painting Mona Lisa, famous for the enigmatic expression on its subject's face (Klingon mon'a' "Is she smiling?")
-mo' suffix due to, because of Why does someone do something? Because it is their M.O. (modus operandi).
muD n. atmosphere, weather From English "mood"; the mood of a place or situation is often figuratively referred to as its "atmosphere"
mul v. be stubborn Stubborn as a "mule"
mun v. intervene People who had joined the cult known as the Moonies were often abducted by friends and family and deprogrammed in a process known as an intervention
namtun n. familiar beginning of a song From an old TV show, Name That Tune, in which contestants had to identify songs from their melodies
namchIl n. chlorophyll Reversed, reads «lIchman»: from the actress Cloris Leachman, who portrayed the character Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The first syllables of Leachman's first name ("Clor-") and that of her character ("Phyll-") together form a near-homophone of "chlorophyll"
nanwI' n. fourth toe See marwI'
natlIS n. end of a list From the English idiom "last, but not least"
na' v. be salty From Na, the chemical symbol for the element sodium; sodium is a component of table salt and the ion responsible for causing salty tastes
na'ran n. a type of sweet fruit From Spanish naranja "orange (fruit)"
neb n. beak, bill From English "neb", an old slang term for "nose"
neqratlh n. glasses, spectacles Reversed, reads «tlharqen»: from Clark Kent, the bespectacled alter ego of the superhero Superman
neSlo' n. small mirror Reversed, reads «'olSen»: from the actor Moroni Olsen, who voiced the Magic Mirror in the 1938 Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
nIH v. steal From English "nick", a slang verb meaning "to steal, to pilfer"
nIqDob n. perforator, hole punch Reversed, reads «boDqIn»: from English "bodkin", a small sharp-pointed tool for punching holes
noS v. nibble, eat in small mouthfuls From English "nosh", a slang verb meaning "to eat, especially a snack or light meal", from Yiddish נאַשן (nashn) "id."
notqa' n. type of bird (large and black) From Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem The Raven: "Quoth the raven, 'Nevermore.'" Klingon not "never" + -qa' suffix indicating repeat or resumption
notron n. curtain, drapes Reversed, reads «norton»: probably from Norton, the major antagonist of the Agatha Christie novel Curtain. Cf. also poymar
nughI' v. twist knuckle into someone's head "Noogie"
ngavyaw' n. largish canine-like creature Reversed, reads «'wayvang»: from the eponymous wild wolf-dog of Jack London's 1906 novel White Fang
paq n. book From the first syllable of Pocket Books, the publisher of The Klingon Dictionary
parbIng n. mid-sized bird with particularly garish coloring par + bIng (under). What kind of clothing do golfers wear? And what is the golf term for getting one under par?
paw' v. collide "Pow!"
pay'an n. particle From English "pion", a type of subatomic particle
pa' reD n. interior face of exterior wall From Spanish pared "wall"
peng n. torpedo sonar sound "ping" always associated with WWII submarine movies and their torpedoes
pep v. raise pep rallies raise your team spirit
pe' v. cut The sound of the word resembles "pare", "to cut small bits/pare shavings off" hence "paring knife"
pe'bIl n. lightning From the title of Leigh Peck's Pecos Bill and Lightning
pe'vIl adv. forcefully, by force Mark Okrand confirmed that this is because he knew a pair of identical twins named Pat and Phil. There is no real connection between the twins and the word "forcefully", Okrand just wanted to use their names in something
pIlghIm n. mast, flagpole From the name of the Pilgrim, a 19th-century sailing brig immortalised in the memoir Two Years Before the Mast
pIrmuS n. bottom (of an object) In the Shakespearean play A Midsummer Night's Dream, the part of Pyramus in the play-within-a-play is portrayed by a character named Nick Bottom
pIw n. odor pee-yew!
pogh n. glove pogh is ghop (hand) spelled backwards
povjaj n. Tuesday See buqjaj
poymar n. mystery From the first syllables of the surnames of sleuths Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple, of the mystery stories of Agatha Christie. Cf. also notron
po'oH n. corner (of a street, a piece of paper) From the title of A. A. Milne's classic children's story The House at Pooh Corner
puch n. toilet "Pooch" is another word for "dog". And dogs are famous for drinking out of toilets
pumnuj n. handcuffs, manacles pum v. fall, nuj n. mouth. Falmouth is a port city in Cornwall, England. Manacle point is there, as are nearby undersea rocks called "The Manacles," famous for shipwrecks and marine life.
puq n. child Small ones like to puke, or when playing with an infant, people tickle them saying, "pookie, pookie, pookie", a word not otherwise used in the language.
puQ v. be fed up Puke-
pur v. breathe in, inhale Probably from English "purr"
qab n. face From Spanish cabeza "head" - also sounds like "back" in reverse.
qab v. be bad Perhaps reverse wordplay upon the professional wrestling term "face", meaning a good character as opposed to a "heel", a bad character
qagh n. serpent worm (as food) There is a very similar Welsh word for excrement
qalmuS n. color (colorfulness) From the surname of Herbert Kalmus, co-founder and President of the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation, and his wife Natalie Kalmus, the color supervisor for many of its films
qama' n. prisoner See Unintentional vocabulary for how this word was created - one upshot is that qama' also means "I accommodate you", which seems appropriate for describing a prisoner
qanraD n. type of bird (songbird) From the first name of Conrad Birdie, the title character in the musical Bye Bye Birdie, a rock-'n'-roll singer modelled after Elvis Presley
qanwI' n. pinky finger see SenwI'
qarpal n. trapezoid (American English), trapezium (Commonwealth English) From English "carpal"; two of the carpal bones of the wrist are called the trapezoid and the trapezium
qaryoq'a' n. type of bird (capable of mimicking speech) "Karaoke"
qat v. accompany (singing) with instrumental music qat is also a verb meaning "wrap". Could this possibly be a reference to "Rap" music?, or perhaps to Cat Stevens?
qaywI' n. Second (middle) finger see SenwI' also, qay' is a verb meaning: be a problem, be a hassle. If someone is a qay'wI', give them the qaywI'
qa'rI' n. end (of corridor, tunnel, conduit, etc.) Okrand confirmed that this is named after Kari, the mother of his twin nieces Megan and Erin. Cf. also megh'an, 'er'In
qa'rol n. type of bird (very large) The character of Big Bird on Sesame Street was portrayed by Caroll Spinney
qegh n. barrel, vat (for storage of liquor) From English "keg"
qettlhup n. type of sauce "Ketchup"
qewwI' n. ring finger See SenwI'
qID n. joke "to kid"
qIl v. cancel "to kill"
qImroq n. season Reversed, reads «qormIq»: from McCormick, a popular brand of spices and seasonings
qogh n. ear (external; cartilaginous flap) The painter Vincent Van Gogh is well-known for, among other things, cutting off his own ear
qol'om n. gold From Coloma, the originating site of the California Gold Rush
qompogh n. fermented, lumpy paste of mashed fruit and/or animal matter "Compost"
qop v. arrest "Cop" as in "it's a fair cop."
qovIj n. smallish canine-like creature Reversed, reads «jIvoq» "I trust": Latin fīdō "I trust" is a homograph of English Fido, a stereotypical dog's name
qoch'uq n. rubber From French caoutchouc "rubber"
qul n. fire Reverse-wordplay on "cool"
qun n. history perhaps a reference to Thomas Kuhn, the philosopher and historian of science?
qung n. hole (in a musical instrument) From Mandarin kǒng "hole"
qup n. elder qup is puq (child) spelled backwards
qur v. be greedy "Cur" is an insult meaning "mongrel dog", and Ferengi are greedy
qur'ep n. wig Reversed, reads «pe'ruq»: from French perruque "wig"
quy'Ip n. vomit Reversed, reads «pI'yuq»: from English "puke"
qu'vu' n. tetrahedron From Khufu, the name of the Egyptian pharaoh who built the Great Pyramid of Giza (though note that the Giza pyramids are not actually tetrahedra)
QaD v. be safe, be protected (slang) Klingons hate to be wet
Qaq v. behave falsely honorably "What a crock!"
Qay'wI' n. little toe see marwI'
QeD n. science Acronym of Latin quod erat demonstrandum "which was to be demonstrated", once a common conclusion for scientific articles
QemjIq n. hole (in the ground) Reversed, reads «qIj meQ» "black-burn": from the Beatles' song, A Day In The Life: "four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire"
Qey v. be tight The Beatles' song Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!, believed to be the source of a couple of other "coincidences" is noted to be based on an old poster. On this poster it is said that "Mr. KITE will appear... On the Tight Rope". Where Mr. Kite is also called Mr. K in the song.
QIS n. wavy-bladed knife From English "kris", a deformation of Malay keris "dagger with a wavy double-edged blade"
QoghIj n. brain From Latin cogito "I think"
Qoyje' n. certificate Many certificates begin with "I hereby certify that..."; Klingon Qoy "hear", je' "buy"
rap v. be the same The reverse of par "dislike". Do Klingons dislike what is not like them?
raS n. table From the Latin phrase tabula rāsa "blank slate, blank canvas"
rech v. exhale From English "retch", to try to vomit
reDyev n. shortage Reversed, reads «veyDer»: combined with English "dearth", a synonym of "shortage", combines to form a near-homophone of "Darth Vader", a major villain of the film Star Wars
ren v. design From the surname of the architect Christopher Wren
renwI' n. architect From an architect bearing the surname Renwick, who designed a building where Okrand had held lessons
rewbe' n. citizen rube, a derogatory word that hustlers use for an easy target of a con game
rIch v. talk about, discuss "Talk is cheap"
rIl v. play a horn see gheb
rIlwI' n. child's thumb From the surname of Jack Horner, who uses his thumb to pull a plum from his pie in the children's nursery rhyme Little Jack Horner
rItlh n. pigment, paint, dye From Rit, a popular brand of fabric dye
ron v. roll (aircraft wings tilt, one up, one down) From the last syllable in English "aileron", the control used to roll an airplane
roSwI' n. third toe see marwI'
run v. be short (in stature) From English "runt"
runpI' n. teapot From the English children's song I'm A Little Teapot: "I'm a little teapot, short and stout" (Klingon run "short", pI' "fat")
ruq v. belch Via the English medical term "eructation", from Latin eructare "to burp, to belch"
Sab v. decline, deteriorate Perhaps Okrand drives an old Saab?
Sap v. volunteer If you volunteer for a dangerous mission, some might consider you a "sap"
Sa'Hut n. buttocks Reversed, reads «tuH'aS»: from Yiddish תּחת‎ (tokhes) "butt, buttocks, backside", also borrowed into North American English in a variety of spellings
Sa'Qej n. Sakrej region jeQ'aS (jackass) backwards
SenwI' n. thumb (adult's thumb) From the Finger Lakes of the U.S. state of New York. There are eleven Finger Lakes, but the five largest (in no particular order) are:
—Lake Seneca (SenwI');
—Lake Skaneateles (SIqwI');
—Lake Cayuga (qaywI');
—Lake Keuka (qewwI');
—Lake Canandaigua (qanwI')
Serrum n. earwax From English "cerumen", the medical term for earwax
SID n. patient Systemic Immune Deficiency
SIla' n. large mirror Reversed, reads «'alIS»: from the name of Alice, the protagonist of Lewis Carroll's classic children's story Through the Looking Glass
SIqwI' n. index finger see SenwI'
SoD n.& v. flood From English "sodden", completely soaked
Sor v. speak non-metaphorically From English "shore", a synonym of "littoral", a near-homophone of "literal"
Sorpuq n. copper Reversed, reads «quproS»: from Greek Κύπρος (Kúpros) "Cyprus", known since antiquity for its rich copper reserves and indirectly also the source of English "copper"
SoS n. mother "SOS" is a Morse code distress call for help, and who do you call for when you're in distress and need help?-Mother
SoSbor n. computer core "Motherboard"; Klingon SoS "mother"
Sub n. hero From English "sub", an abbreviation of "submarine sandwich"; such a sandwich is also called a "hero", due to a misspelling and mistaken singularization of Greek γύρος (yíros). Bizarrely, the major distributor of supplies to gyros vendors worldwide is called Kronos.
Sup v. jump Superman is able to leap tall buildings with a single bound
Supghew n. type of stringed instrument (small) The English word is from Hawaiian ʻukulele, derived from the phrase ʻuku lele "jumping flea"; Klingon Sup "jump", ghew "bug"
Sut n. clothing From English "suit"
Su'lop n. type of food From English "slop"
tangqa' n. bull-like animal Two possibilities: (1) from Dakota ṭaṭaŋka "buffalo", brought to widespread attention in the film Dances with Wolves; or (2) from Tibetan thangka, a type of Buddhist painted tapestry, often portraying a rendition of the bull-headed deity Yama
tap v. mash (fruit, vegetable) Reverse wordplay on "tap"
tar n. poison From English "tar", the poisonous residue of cigarette smoking, which contains a mixture of poisonous gases, carcinogenic hydrocarbons, and heavy and radioactive metals
tay' v. be together From English "tie"
tennuS n. uncle, father's brother From "Uncle Tonoose", a character from the Danny Thomas TV show Make Room for Daddy
teSra' n. small tile (like a Scrabble piece) From Latin tessera, a small square or cube used as a component of a mosaic
tIn v. be big One proposed etymology for this word is based on a Laurel and Hardy movie called "Be Big." The performer's first name "Stan" doesn't fit into Klingon phonology, but stan- is the Latin prefix used for chemical compounds made with ... tin. However, when Marc Okrand was asked about this at a qep'a' (I believe qep'a' javDIch?), he said that this was just a coincidence. He explained that in English, words expressing smallness tend to have "i" and "n" sounds (e.g., "tiny", "mini", "itty bitty") and words for largeness have "m" and "o" sounds (e.g., "enormous", "humongous"). So he switched these sounds, so that tIn is "be big" and mach is "be small", to make Klingon sound more alien.
tIq n. heart From English "ticker", a slang term for the heart
tIQ v. be ancient From English "antique"
tIS v. be light (weight) From English "tissue"
tor v. pitch (aircraft tilts nose up or down) From the last syllable in English "elevator", the control used to pitch an airplane
turmIq n. urine A reversal of syllables from the English medical term "micturate", from Latin micturīre "to have the urge to urinate"
tuS v. cough From Latin tussire "to cough", cf. English "pertussis", the medical name of whooping cough
tuy' v. Spit onomatopoeic, cf. HI'tuy
tlhagh n. fat, animal fat From English "clog", as of arteries; cp. also Klingon tlhombuS
tlhaq n. chronometer From English "clock"
tlhaS v. fight, battle (relatively minor fight) From English "clash"
tlhaw' v. hit (percussion instrument) with fist From English "clout", to hit, especially with the fist
tlhepQe' n. Saliva Reversed, reads «'eQpetlh»: from the English medical term "expectorate", to eject or discharge matter from the throat or lungs by coughing or hawking and spitting
tlher v. be lumpy "Clarence" was Lumpy's given name on Leave It To Beaver
tlhIq n. Stew From English "thick"
tlhombuS n. type of food (made from animal fat) From English "thrombus", a blood clot that causes clogging of a blood vessel; cp. also Klingon tlhagh
tlhoS adv. almost, nearly, not quite From English "close"
tlhoy adv. overly, to an excessive degree, too much From English "cloy" as in "cloying"
-vam suffix this See -vetlh
vem'eq n. type of bird (eats qagh) From the English proverb "The early bird catches the worm," and indeed this bird eats worms (qagh); Klingon vem "wake up", 'eq "be early".
veragh n. rivet What is the sound a frog makes? veragh is as close as you can get to saying "frog" in Klingon
-vetlh suffix that In many languages, the "i" vowel sound is used to indicate nearness (e.g., "this") and "a" or "u" vowel sounds are used for distance (e.g., "that"). Since Klingon -vam and -vetlh are the opposite of this, Okrand may have intended this as a linguistic pun to indicate the alienness of Klingon. Cf. tIn
vIghro' n. type of animal (like a cat) Possibly a reference to "Figaro", Pinocchio's cat. Also Megan's cat (see megh'an)
vIlInHoD n. type of bird (capable of mimicking speech) In Robert Louis Stevenson's story Treasure Island, Long John Silver had a talking pet parrot named "Cap'n Flint". Klingon HoD=captain
vIn n. cousin, member of a group of tey' and lor From the title of the 1992 film My Cousin Vinny
vIychorgh n. juice, sap V-8 is a brand of vegetable juice drink; Klingon chorgh "eight".
voDchuch n. spider-like bug voD "to bore, drill", chuch "ice". English "bore-ice" resembles the name "Boris" in Boris the Spider, a famous song by The Who
von v. trap, entrap When the word is read followed by its translation (cf. DaS//boot), probably refers to the "Von Trapp" family made famous by Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical The Sound of Music
waq n. shoe From English "walk"
waqboch n. type of bird (long beak) Kiwi is both a brand of shoe polish, and a species of flightless bird having a very long beak. Klingon waq "shoe", boch "be shiny"
waQ n. months from now "Wax" and "wane" can be used to describe the changing of the phase of the moon. The moon is roughly on a monthly cycle. Wax -> increase (the time line) = waQ - months from now. Wane -> decrease (the time line) = wen - months ago.
warjun n. type of knife (used for food preparation) The knife is described as having a large rectangular blade: in other words, a cleaver. In the famous old TV series Leave It To Beaver, Beaver's last name was Cleaver, and his parents (Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver) were Ward and June.
wej number three A "wedge" is triangle-shaped (three sides)
wejpuH excl. Charming (used only ironically) Third time's a charm, net Sov.
wen n. months ago see waQ
weq v. hit (percussion instrument) with palm From English "whack"
weQ n. candle From English "wax"
wIlle' n. joint (of a body) "Joint" is a slang term for a marijuana cigarette; country musician Willie Nelson is famed for his marijuana consumption
wuD v. snore When you snore people say you are sawing "wood"
wup v. burst into song From English "whoop"
wuQ v. have a headache wuq (v) is to decide, which may cause someone to wuQ (v)
ya n. tactical officer From German ja "yes"}
yang n. image from a (rubber) stamp Wordplay on Mandarin yìn "stamp, seal" as well as the (etymologically-unrelated) dualism of yīn and yáng; just as yīn is complementary to yáng, so too is a stamp or seal (yìn) complementary to its impression
yay n. victory, triumph From English "Yay!"
yergho n. the wall around a city From Hebrew יְרִיחוֹ‎ (yərīḥō) "Jericho", a Palestinian town whose city walls were said in the Bible to have been destroyed in an Israelite attack
yIH n. tribble "Yick!" (this is what a Klingon would probably say if they saw a tribble)
yomIj n. neutron Reversed, reads «jImoy», or «jIm» with the noun suffix of endearment -*oy*: Jimmy Neutron is a cartoon character
yor n. top From the title of You're the Top, a jazz standard from the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes
yu n. first (and last) note of nonatonic scale The first three notes pun on the chorus of the song Do-Re-Mi, from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music:
—"Do, a deer, a female deer" (cp. English ewe "female sheep" → yu);
—"Re, a drop of golden sun" (cp. English beam "ray of light" → bIm);
—"Mi, a name I call myself" (-'egh "reflexive: oneself")
yuch n. chocolate spelled backwards this is chuy, which sounds a lot like "chewy"
yu' v. question, interrogate "Hey, you!"
yuvtlhe' n. lid, cap Instructions on many child-resistant medicine bottle caps read "Push down while turning"; Klingon yuv "push", tlhe' "turn"
'alnIl n. belt buckle From the name of Alnilam, the middle of the three stars that make up the "belt" of the constellation of Orion
'ampaS n. academy AMPAS is the acronym of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
'amrI' n. balcony Reversed, reads «'Irma'»: from Irma, a major character from the famous play The Balcony
'aqnaw n. type of knife (general purpose, cuts anything) Think of late-night commercials selling new and exciting kinds of all-purpose knives and exhorting you: "Act now!"
'aqroS n. maximum, bottom surface of a table, ceiling From Greek ἄκρος (ákros) "topmost, extreme"
'arDeH n. ivy-like plant Reversed, reads «HeDra'»: from Latin hedera "ivy"
'argh v. worsen From the English exclamation "Argh!"
'atlhqam n. type of fungus "Athlete's foot"; Klingon qam "foot"
'awje' n. root beer In Klingon, je after the nouns means "and", and so 'awje['] can be read a w je, or "a and w"; A&W is a famous brand of root beer
'aw' v. sting The English exclamation "Ow!"
'eDjen n. an arrogant or haughty person In English, someone who is arrogant is said to be on a "high horse". Klingon jen is verb "be high", and "Ed" is the name of a talking horse on the television program Mr. Ed
'egh n. third note of nonatonic scale See yu
'ejyaH num. infinity Reversed, reads «Hay je[']» "and beyond": from the catchphrase of Buzz Lightyear in the film Toy Story, "To infinity and beyond!"
'elpI' n. serving platter An "LP" refers to a long-playing phonograph record, back when music was recorded on vinyl. An LP is thus a largish disk of plastic, known colloquially as a "platter"
'em v. vomit From the English medical term "emesis", from Greek ἐμέω (eméō) "I vomit"
'ergh v. hallucinate The hallucinogenic drug LSD was first synthesised from chemical precursors found in ergot, a fungus infesting domestic cereals
'er'In n. end (of stick, rope, etc.), other end from megh'an Cp. also megh'an
'ev n. northwestward, area to the northwest Two possibilities: (1) from Eve Kendall, a character in the Alfred Hitchcock movie North by Northwest (who was portrayed, moreover, by Eva Marie Saint); or (2) from the Kingdom of Ev, the region northwest of the land of Oz in L. Frank Baum's Oz book series(2)
'evta' n. animal similar to a newt or salamander From English eft or Old English efeta, an archaic word for "newt"
'ey v. be good, be delicious, be tasty, be harmonious Perhaps a reference to the famous "Eyyy!" catchphrase of the character Fonzie from the show Happy Days
'e'mam n. aunt, father's sister Reversed, reads «mam'e'»: almost certainly a reference to Auntie Mame, the main character in the Jerry Herman musical Mame
'IH v. be beautiful, handsome Reverse wordplay on "ick"
'Impey' n. pyramid From the name of I. M. Pei, the architect of the famous glass-and-steel pyramid over the entrance to the Louvre museum in Paris
'InSep n. penis Simply a rearrangement of the letters in "penis"
'Iq v. be too many, be too much "ick"
'IqnaH n. mucus Reversed, reads «HanqI'»: English "hanky" is a piece of cloth used to wipe away mucus from the mouth and nose
'IqngIl n. coil, spring Reversed, reads «lIngqI'»: truncated from Slinky, a well-known toy comprising a long coil of metal or plastic
'IrneH n. uncle, mother's brother Reversed, reads «HenrI'»: refers to Uncle Henry, a character from The Wizard of Oz. Cf. also me'
'ISjaH n. calendar This is DIS (n) plus jar (n) with the first and last letters replaced
'ISQIm n. harmony (musical) From "ice-cream", the sung phrase Harold Hill uses to teach harmony to the River City School Board in the Meredith Willson musical The Music Man(3)
'IvtIH n. hip "Hip-hip-hooray!"; Klingon 'Iv "who", tIH "ray"
'Iw n. blood eeew!
'obe' n. order; group OBE is an abbreviation of "Order of the British Empire"
'oj v. be thirsty One might be thirsty for "OJ", a common abbreviation for "orange juice"
'om v. resist, fend off From "ohm", the unit for measuring resistance in an electrical circuit
'oQqar n. root, tuber Due to its shape, the ocarina, a musical instrument, is sometimes called a "sweet potato" (in its literal sense, a type of tuber)
'orwI' n. pilot, one who operates (an aircraft) Orville Wright was the first pilot of a powered, heavier than air craft
'oSHeQ n. spleen Reversed, reads «QeH So'» "hide anger": English "spleen" is also an archaic metaphor for internalised anger or spite, and to reveal one's anger or spite is still to "vent one's spleen"
'oynot n. flesh Reversed, reads «tonyo'»: refers to Antonio, the titular character from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, from whom the character Shylock demands a "pound of flesh" in repayment of a defaulted loan
'oy' n. pain Yiddish exclamation indicating pain or frustration, e.g. "oy gevalt"
'o'megh n. end (of a song) From "omega", the last letter of the Greek alphabet
'o' n. aft A visual pun: the written Klingon word 'o' very much resembles a stylised aft view of the USS Enterprise(4)
'ugh v. be heavy Any typical cartoon character trying to lift something heavy will have a text balloon over him saying "Ugh", to convince you of the effort he is expending and not doing well
'uH v. have a hangover, be hung over What is the sound a hung-over person makes when they try to sit up and their head pounds?
'ul n. electricity Underwriter's Laboratory -- most electric appliances have UL stickers
'uma' n. petal Petaluma, a city in California
'umber n. ecosystem, environment From Umberto Eco, a famous Italian academic and novelist
'un n. pot (for food preparation, general term) Similar to English "urn", which is also a word for a type of large pot for making coffee or tea.
'up v. be unsavory, disgusting, repugnant, loathsome, icky This is how I find 7-Up; maybe Okrand feels the same way. Or read it backwards and notice it sounds like "pooh"
'uSgheb n. type of bird (likened to a rooster) "Leghorn", a small egg-laying fowl. Many people will be familiar with the cartoon character "Foghorn Leghorn", who is definitely a rooster. Klingon 'uS "leg", gheb "horn"
'uSqan n. iron (element) The USS Constitution, a frigate of the United States Navy, has the nickname "Old Ironsides"


1 : talking to Lieven L. Litaer in June 2020

2 : As shown on the original map from 1914's Tik-Tok of Oz. Note that, due to cartographic confusions on early Oz maps, the compass rose is reversed and west is on the map's right-hand side.

3 : The Music Man's "ice-cream" harmony—recast with Klingon 'awje' "root beer"—was made famous in the Klingon community by the taHjaj wo' Barbershop Quartet, first performed at qep'a' javDIch.

4 : Kuhn, C., and D. Broadway (2018). "U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 (Discovery-Era Color Schematics)". Cygnus-X1.net. Retrieved 31 July 2021

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