Language barriers can be tough to get around, but one thing is for sure: the word most known across languages is “Huh?”

According to, researcher Mark Dingemanse has an explanation:

But why would huh? sound similar in every language? To explain that, Dingemanse draws on evolutionary theory, saying the word is the result of “selective pressures in its conversational environment.” In a sense, huh? is such a highly efficient utterance for serving its particular narrow function that it has emerged in different languages independently again and again—what’s known as convergent evolution, or the appearance of a feature in different, often unrelated organisms presumably because it works so well. Sharks and dolphins, Dinge­manse says, “arrived at the same body plan not because they share certain genes, but because they share an environment.”

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