At the start of the novel Sister Mine by Nalo Hopkinson, one of the characters, Makeda, is looking for a new place to live. A certain Milo rents out "units" in what he calls "warehouse living" and shows Makeda what the facilities look like. Makeda thinks to herself,

I'd heard about his kind. He was just your average slum landlord. I kissed my teeth in disdain. Milo blinked at the sound, but clearly didn't know what it meant. Any one of my relatives would have, on either side of the Family. Hell, any black person pretty much the world over would have known it.

This act of kissing teeth also occurs frequently in Hopkinson's novel Midnight Robber. The Urban Dictionary describes it as follows:

The act of kissing teeth (kmt) means to express disapproval[,] contempt, or dissatisfaction with a situation or person by making a sound through the act of sucking air through one's teeth.
Oft performed by people from the Caribbean.

The Jamaican Patwah dictionary describes it as follows:

To make a hissing sound from one’s mouth, usually to signal irritation or annoyance. (In Jamaica, hissing one’s teeth is normally followed by a round of expletives.)

However, after reading these descriptions, it's still not clear what it exactly looks and sounds like. I am looking for a description or other type of resource (e.g. a video) that is sufficiently clear to help me reproduce this action.

3 Answers 3


As this article explains,

The basic manoeuvre is a sucking of air through the teeth from behind pursed lips – or as academics describe it, a "velaric ingressive airstream involving closure at two points in the mouth". But thereafter there is nuance. There is the short, sharp kiss from the front teeth on either side. Usually this denotes minor irritation or mild disapproval. It may be deployed with a shake of the head and perhaps the glimmer of a smile, recognising the absurdity of what has transpired.

Moving up the scale, there is the sucking from further back in the mouth. Longer in duration and louder, this responds to episodes occasioning deeper incredulity.

This video is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek explanation, but it also shows it well:


  • No Youtube embedding on this site :-(
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 16:49
  • @Randal'Thor I am so used to it on Arqade being automatic that I might have edited this answer a couple times thinking I was doing it wrong.... :P
    – user25
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 16:50
  • "Not recommended for use during a job interview." :-D Excellent video.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 17:11

I found an explanation of "kissing teeth" in a blog post by Azizi Powell on Pancocojams, a blog which (in its own words) showcases the customs of people of Black descent throughout the world. In this post, she explains something about the history of the term and the various different words which can be used for it in different parts of the Caribbean:

The phrase "suck your teeth" is documented as early as 1915 in Jamaica and is also found in Barbados, Belize, and Guyana, Trinidad, and the United States (particularly among African Americans). In Tobago, kiss teeth is called "hiss teeth" and in the Cayman Islands it is called "sucking your mouth". Source: http://privatewww.essex.ac.uk/~patrickp/papers/KSTpapwww.pdf The Meaning Of Kiss Teeth [...]

In the Caribbean kiss teeth is represented by the initials "KST" (kiss teeth) and "KMT" (kiss my teeth). Among people from the Caribbean, kiss teeth can be represented in writing using the words "Cho!", "Chups", "Tchuipe, "Chupes", "Stchuup”, and similarly spelled words. These words are both nouns and verbs. [...]

A well deserved ode to the tjoerie. The what?!? The tjoerie, which is the Surinamese word for what is known in the French West Indies as 'le tchip' and in the English speaking part of the Caribbean as 'kiss-teeth'.

When something or someone becomes too annoying, one always has an effective weapon at their disposal: a long, cricket-like sound of which the effect combined with rolling eyes is deadly insulting. There is no one that does not respect a good tjoerie.

She also includes a video in her blog post to demonstrate the "tjoerie" in action:



Kissing teeth, or the "velaric ingressive airstream involving closure at two points in the mouth" may be considered disrespectful and a culpable expression of contempt. It is banned in many French schools and at one time was liable to result in arrest in Britain if done by someone being questioned by police.

French schools ban teeth-sucking

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