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Klingon written language

An example of Klingon script reading (in English): "deck 2, red sector"

Klingon script

The Klingon written language

Paq batlh

The paq'batlh, an ancient Klingon scroll written in Klingonese

Klingon Characters

Klingon characters (Klingonese) on a terminal

Klingon Characters2

Klingon characters (Klingonese) on a terminal

Klingonese (also known more commonly as "Klingon") was the language used throughout the Klingon Empire. It was boasted that half the quadrant was learning the language by the mid-23rd century. (TOS: "The Trouble with Tribbles")

The Klingon language contained eighty poly-guttural dialects constructed on an adaptive syntax. The first Human to become fluent in it was Hoshi Sato, who learned from a linguistic database provided by the Vulcans. (ENT: "Broken Bow") Sato once remarked that a book given to her by Tarquin, written by a civilization over a thousand years dead, was in a language very similar to medieval Klingon. (ENT: "Exile")

The Klingon language was not an immutable language. It was constantly changing to meet the needs and aspirations of the people. In the mid-24th century, the word peacemaker appeared for the first time in Klingonese after the negotiations mediated by Riva between the Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets took place. (TNG: "Loud As A Whisper") However, as of the late 24th century, there still did not seem to be a Klingon word for jolly. (TNG: "Parallels")

By the late-23rd century, several Federation authors wrote books on learning the Klingon language. Uhura had several on hand aboard the Enterprise in 2293, when she had to convince a Klingon patrol post that they were the Klingon freighter Ursva, including Introduction to Klingon Grammar. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)

Several of these books were seen in greater detail in the Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Special Edition) DVD special features.
Nichelle Nichols complained that with the Klingons as the Federation's primary enemy, a good communications officer would be able to speak at least basic Klingon. Director Nicholas Meyer preferred to keep the scene as it was, for "the laugh."

In the alternate reality, Uhura described her mastery of Klingon as "rusty", but she appeared fluent enough to negotiate with members of the Klingon Defense Force. (Star Trek Into Darkness)

Montgomery Scott once stated that reading Klingon was hard compared to maintaining damage control aboard a Klingon Bird-of-Prey. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)

The directory of the Promenade on Deep Space 9 was written in Klingonese, as well as English, Vulcan, Ferengi, Bajoran, and Cardassian.

Kathryn Janeway stated to Arturis that, while Arturis could speak over 4,000 languages, she could barely speak basic Klingon. B'Elanna Torres stated that she found the language a little too robust for her taste. (VOY: "Hope and Fear")

In 2374, Alexander Rozhenko admitted to Miles O'Brien that he could barely even say his name in Klingon. (DS9: "You Are Cordially Invited")

Klingon vocabulary

Word Meaning Usage Source
adanji a type of incense used only for Mauk-to'Vor DS9: "Sons of Mogh"
baH fire! (as in torpedoes, disruptors, etc.) Star Trek: The Motion Picture
baktag an insult TNG: "Redemption II"
bat'leth sword of honor; a two-handed sword-like Klingon melee weapon TNG: "Reunion"
Bekk an enlisted rank in the Klingon Defense Force DS9: "Sons and Daughters"
d'akturak ice-man DS9: "Blood Oath"
D'blok an insult
It is unclear what exactly d'blok means.
In 2372 Chancellor Gowron compared Worf to a mute d'blok, when Worf didn't answer Gowron's offer to come with him to Cardassia Prime, immediately. DS9: "The Way of the Warrior"
d'k tahg a traditional Klingon warrior's knife Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Fek'lhr the demonic guard of Gre'thor, according to Klingon mythology TNG: "Devil's Due"
gik'tal to the death TNG: "Lower Decks"
Gre'thor the mythological place where souls of the dishonored go after death TNG: "Devil's Due"
he'ymar energize (voice command to transporter activation) DS9: "Past Prologue"
hur'q outsider DS9: "The Sword of Kahless"
jak'tahla Klingon time of adolescence Star Trek: Insurrection
jat'yIn spiritual possession, lit. "the taking of the living by the dead" TNG: "Power Play"
jinaq a pendant given to a young Klingon female old enough to take a mate. TNG: "Birthright, Part II"
Jelik a word, phrase, name, place, or event mentioned by Klaang to Hoshi Sato in 2151; along with Sarin, Rigel, and Tholia, Sato could not translate the word or understand its meaning (ENT: "Broken Bow")
kellicam a Klingon measurement of distance Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Kortar in Klingon mythology, the first Klingon created by the gods and who destroyed them VOY: "Barge of the Dead"
kos'karii pale, serpent-like creatures from Klingon mythology, who roam the waters of the underworld VOY: "Barge of the Dead"
kut'luch a traditional knife used by Klingon assassins TNG: "Sins of the Father"
Mauk-to'Vor a ritual in which one kills a wrongfully disgraced sibling to restore their honor in Sto-vo-kor DS9: "Sons of Mogh"
mek'leth a Klingon blade weapon DS9: "The Way of the Warrior"
mevak a traditional knife used for Mauk-to'Vor DS9: "Sons of Mogh"
Mok'tah bad match VOY: "Drive"
nIb'poH déjà vu TNG: "Cause and Effect"
Nuq'nuh A traditional greeting. DS9: "Once More Unto the Breach"
par'Mach love, but with more aggressive or violent undertones DS9: "Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places"
petaQ an insult See below TNG: "The Defector", et al.
Qapla' success Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
qhonDoq a type of assassin's blade TNG: "Sins of the Father"
Qui'Tu the place where all life began, according to Klingon mythology Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
shuVak a servant DS9: "Once More Unto the Breach"
Soch the number seven (citation needededit)
Sli-Vak whore DS9: "Penumbra"
soh-chim step-sibling, god parent (roughly); legal guardian assigned by a Klingon warrior prior to battle TNG: "Parallels"
Sto-vo-kor the afterlife of the honored dead, where Kahless the Unforgettable resides TNG: "Rightful Heir"
Suvwl' Warrior TNG: "The Icarus Factor"TNG: "Redemption"
taHqeq a being known for telling lies; used as an insult when questioning another's honesty TNG: "The Mind's Eye"
tohzah an insult TNG: "The Defector"
toruk-doh an insult DS9: "You Are Cordially Invited"
tajtiq a long Klingon knife, usually used in pairs DS9: "Apocalypse Rising"
yan a sword TNG: "Redemption"; DS9: "Apocalypse Rising"

Klingonese quotes

bortaS bIr jablu'DI' reH QaQqu' nay'
Revenge is a dish best served cold (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
Spoken by Khan Noonien Singh.

"My beloved"
Spoken by Valkris to Kruge shortly before her vessel was destroyed.
matlh! jol yIchu'!
"Maltz! Activate beam!" (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
Kruge when beaming the crew of the Enterprise to his Bird of Prey, and when Kirk beams up with Spock after defeating Kruge.

taH pagh taHbe'
to be or not to be (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)

nuqneH, qaleghneS
What do you want? I am honored to see you (TNG: "The Emissary")

naDev ghoS
come here (TNG: "Redemption")
jIlajneS. ghIj qet jaghmeyjaj
"I accept [with honor]. May your enemies run with fear" (TNG: "Redemption")
Lit: I accept your honor. He is scared, the scattered around enemies' day run.

A drinking song:

'ej HumtaH 'ej DechtaH 'Iw
And the blood was ankle deep
'ej Doq SoDtaH ghoSpa' Sqral bIQtIq
And the River Skral ran crimson red
'e' pa' jaj law' mo' jaj puS
On the day above all days
jaj qeylIS molar mIgh HoHchu'qu'
When Kahless slew evil Molor dead (DS9: "The Way of the Warrior"; VOY: "Barge of the Dead")
As with many other Klingon quotations, this song is grammatically ill-formed according to Marc Okrand's dictionary. A close equivalent of the given English translation might be something similar to:
'ej ngIb Saw', vI', Dech je 'Iw;
'ej Doq, SoDtaH, ghoStaH SIQal bIQtIq;
ngugh, jaj nIv law' Hoch nIv puS,
molor mIgh HoHchu'qu'DI' qeylIS.

Mok'Ta vor, kash a'VEH
You are an enemy of my House (DS9: "You Are Cordially Invited")

wIy cha'
show tactical display (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

SoHvaD pagh vIjatlh, Human!
I have nothing to say to you, Human!
'ay'vamDaq nuHmey tIQeq
target weapons on this section (ENT: "Affliction")

quv lughaj Archer HoD beqDaj je
Captain Archer and his crew are honorable people (ENT: "The Augments")

maj ram
"Good night", as said by both Jadzia Dax and Kor as the former headed for bed. (DS9: "The Sword of Kahless")

In 2371, the USS Enterprise-D arrived at Veridian III and hailed the cloaked Bird-of-Prey used by Lursa and B'Etor. A Klingon officer told B'Etor of the Enterprise's hailing, but B'Etor responded with "Du'cha. We're still cloaked. They can't see us." (Star Trek Generations)


One Klingon term used as an insult on numerous occasions was petaQ (also spelled "Pahtak", "Pathak", "p'tahk", "p'takh", "patahk", "pahtk", or "p'tak"). It was also used by the Klingons of the mirror universe.

According to William T. Riker, petaQ was a curse word. (TNG: "The Defector")


As can be seen above, many different spellings of the word have appeared over the years. petaQ is the official Klingon spelling from Marc Okrand's Klingon Dictionary.

Non-Klingon speakers of Klingonese


Background information

The Klingon language was originally called "Klingonese" in the episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" (by Korax) and again in "Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places" (by Quark). Most later episodes refer to the language simply as "Klingon," and non-canon names include Klingonaase and tlhIngan Hol. Some people assert that Michael Pataki actually said "Klingoni" in "The Trouble with Tribbles", but this conflicts with the script and the Star Trek Encyclopedia.

The Klingon language was developed by James Doohan for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and expanded for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock by Marc Okrand, who enlarged the lexicon and created a grammar around the original dozen words Doohan had created. It has spawned several reference works, beginning with The Klingon Dictionary. Scotty once remarked, "reading Klingon, that's hard." (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)

Michael Okuda, who led the TNG-era art departments in creating Klingon language graphics, has admitted they are randomly arranged symbols, which he based on the small number of Klingon writings visible in TOS and the Star Trek films. These graphics and writings do not reflect any possible spellings or translations in what Okrand's non-canon works call pIqaD, the native Klingon writing system. (NOTE: An unofficial guide to pIqaD is included on the box insert of the Star Trek Klingon Edition Monopoly game.)


The sounds of the Klingon language as developed by Marc Okrand are harsh and guttural. This transliteration system was used in preparing scripts and phrases when Okrand supplied dialog and coached pronunciation.

Below is a table providing a rough guide on how to pronounce Klingon and the standard transliteration of the sounds of Klingon. Please note that this table corresponds to the sounds of the standard dialect used when Okrand created the language; other writers have introduced other sounds and concepts into the language.

Letter Sound Letter Sound
a as in father or balm o as in go or close
b as in ball; in some dialects it is pronounced mb as in amber or m as in mess p as in pass
ch as in chess q similar to "k" but pronounced further back in the throat
D as in dead but with the tongue rolled further back; also like "nd" or "n" in some dialects Q pronounced like q but choked, a very raspy sound, very forceful,very similar to the initial "cr" phoneme in croissant.
e as in bed r as in rotary, but trilled
gh similar to "g" but softly gargled, sounds a bit like the French "r" S half-way between "s" and "sh", like "s" but with the tongue rolled back
H as in Scottish loch or German Bach t as in tops
I as in in or lift tlh like tl in bottle or Aztec tetl
j as in jump u as in snooze but shorter
l as in land v as in valve
m as in mole w as in walker or where
n as in nostril y as in young
ng as in sing, never like the "ng" in finger ' glottal stop, as in uh-oh or cockney bo(tt)le

Basic phrases

Below is a short list of some useful basic phrases in the tlhIngan Hol dialect, the most commonly-heard dialect used in the Empire.

English (Human Hol, DIvI' Hol) Klingonese (tlhIngan Hol)
Do you speak Klingon? tlhIngan Hol Dajatlh'a'
I don't speak Klingon. tlhIngan Hol vIjatlhbe'
Do you speak English? DIvI' Hol Dajatlh'a'
I understand. jIyaj
Beam me aboard! HIjol
Fire thrusters! chuyDaH
Buy or die! bIje'be'chugh vaj bIHegh!
Pay now! DaH yIDIl
I am a ... ... jIH
Klingon, Romulan, Human tlhIngan, romuluSngan, tera'ngan
Vulcan, Ferengi, Cardassian vulqangan, verengan, qarDaSngan/qarDaSya'ngan
Visual! HaSta
Ready torpedoes! cha yIghuS
Ready... 'eHHH...
Evasive! juntaH!
Surrender or die! bIjeghbe'chugh vaj bIHegh!
It is a good day to die! Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam


The tlhIngan Hol dialect is featured most prominently in the Star Trek movies and intermittently in the series. Some writers on the television series followed The Klingon Dictionary fairly closely, while others did not. [1] Ronald D. Moore, noted for his major contributions to developing the Klingon culture, commented "Whether or not we use the language as spelled out in Marc's dictionary is up to the individual writer. I personally find the dictionary cumbersome and usually find it easier to make it up phonetically." (AOL chat, 1997) Marc Okrand noted that despite these departures, "[A]ny Klingon spoken during TNG counts as legitimate Klingon, whether I made it up or not, and I've incorporated all of it into the language." [2]

Such departures from Okrand's version included the following:

  • The writers made up their own Klingon words: e.g kuva'magh or pfiots, against Okrand's pronunciation rules of standard tlhIngan Hol
  • They used established Klingon words but in such a way that they were strung together without following Okrand's grammar rules, for example SoH batlh jI' for "you honor me", even though this sentence means something like "I am a honor you are". The correct translation of "you honor me" would be choquvmoH or tuquvmoH, depending on whether you referred to one person or multiple people.
  • They gave new or extended meaning based on the English translation of a word, for example pu'DaH (pronounced poo-dakh) - phasers and cha (pronounced chah) - torpedoes, becomes pu'Dah dak cha (pronounced puh-dar dack chah) meaning photon torpedoes, when Okrand had already devised ' otlh cha.


Composers have also used Klingon lyrics in their leitmotifs for the films. Cliff Eidelman, who composed Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country used taH pagh taHbe', a translation of "to be or not to be", for the choral parts for the score on Rura Penthe, in reference to Chang's love of William Shakespeare. [3]

MA 2009Warning! This section may contain spoilers for new Star Trek material.

For Star Trek Into Darkness, music editor Alex Levy incorporated Klingon lyrics into Michael Giacchino's score, mainly using Klingon insults to represent their fury at Kirk's intrusion of their planet. [4]

See also

Episodes in which Klingonese is spoken

External links

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