Japanese Onomatopoeia refers to words that represent sounds. Common onomatopoeia in English are ‘pop’, ‘whoosh’, ‘bang’, and ‘baam’. Onomatopoeia make language more vibrant and lively.
Onomatopoeia is most commonly seen in manga and comics. However, Japanese onomatopoeic expressions are becoming increasingly common in daily life. If you are looking for a way to improve your conversation skills in Japanese, then Japanese onomatopoeia is just what you need.
Japanese has relatively few verbs and adjectives when compared to English or Arabic. Japanese onomatopoeia is very flexible and has a wide range of meanings. This could make it a challenge to learn for new learners.
- Related: Basic Japanese Words to Use
- Related: Basic Japanese Greetings To Use
The Japanese language has more onomatopoeia than any other language. The Japanese use onomatopoeia in their daily interactions as well. Iit is used to express even tiny nuances. This is why, if you wish to learn the Japanese language, you need to familiarize yourself with Japanese onomatopoeia.
List of Japanese Onomatopoeia
Types of Japanese Onomatopoeia
In Japanese, onomatopoeia can be used to express sounds of animals, nature, inanimate objects, movements, and feelings. The five types of Japanese onomatopoeia are:
- Giongo: Sounds made by non living things, like vehicles or the rain.
- Gitaigo: Sounds that describe states of being, like muggy weather, or feeling sticky because of sweat.
- Giseigo: Sounds made by living things, like birds or people.
- Giyougo: Sounds that describe a specific movement, like falling into a deep sleep or walking around.
- Gijougo: Sounds that describe feelings, like feeling chills caused by an eerie feeling.
To make things easier, there are two main types. They are Giongo and Gitaigo- words that represent sounds and words that represent feelings and emotions.
Grammatical Forms in Japanese Onomatopoeia
This may be a little tricky. The rules are a little vague. But usually, words that represent sounds are written in Katakana (like most Giongo) and words that represent feelings or conditions are written in Hiragana ( most Gitaigo).
But this depends on what type of sound it is. Katakana look quite hard and square like and Hiragana is rounded and soft. So with respect to that, Katakana are used for harder sounds and Hiragana are used for softer ones.
The three main grammatical forms of Japanese onomatopoeic expressions are as follows:
- Double form: The form represents a continuing state of a sound or emotion. For example, “waku waku” to express excitement or “pera pera” to express the act of speaking fluently.
- と form: This form is used to express sounds that are quick, short and cut off. For example, “hatto” used to represent a gasp or “zotto” to express a shiver running down the spine.
- り form: This form is used to express a sound or action that is slow or drawn out. For example, “nosori” used to represent walking in a lazy manner or “shonbori” used to represent dejection.
Japanese onomatopoeia for animal sound effects (Giseigo)
- Wan wan: Woof-woof (dog)
- Nya nya: Meow-meow (cat)
- Mo- mo-: Moo-moo (cow)
- Hi- hin: Neigh-neigh (horse)
- Bu- bu-: Oink-oink (pig)
- Kokekokko-: Cockadoodledoo (rooster)
- Kero kero: Ribbit-ribbit (frog)
- Uki uki: Oo-oo-ah-ah (monkey)
- Bu-n: Buzz-buzz (bees, or flying insects)
- Kon kon: The sound a fox makes
Japanese onomatopoeia for people sound effects (Giseigo)
- Kohon kohon: A light cough
- Guu guu: Snoring loudly
- Kushu: Sneezing
- Wai wai: Children playing, or a group of people talking noisily
- Koso koso: Secret whispering
- Kya-: Screaming
- Zuru zuru: Slurping loudly
- Niko niko: To smile (at something funny)
- Jiro jiro: To stare intently
- Gabu gabu: To guzzle a drink
- Gyaa gyaa: To wail or cry loudly
- Shiku siku: To whimper or cry softly
Japanese onomatopoeia for inanimate sound effects (Giongo)
- Para para: Light, scattered rain, or flipping through the pages of a book.
- Rin rin: The sound of ringing, like a bicycle bell ring.
- Kon kon: Knocking
- Goro goro: Thunder rumbling, or large objects rolling loudly
- Za- za-: Heavy rain
- Gobo gobo: Gushing water
- Gatan gaton: The sound of a train clacking along
- Gashan: Crash
- Kata kata: Click-clack, or typing
- Sawa sawa: Rustling
- Ban ban: Bang
Japanese onomatopoeia for states or conditions (Gitaigo)
- Kira kira: Sparkling
- Guru guru: Dizzy
- Peto peto: Feeling sticky with sweat
- Bisshori: To be soaked
- Pika pika: To shine
- Mushi mushi: Humid, uncomfortable hot/sticky weather
- Piri piri: Spicy, hot sensation
- Beto beto: Sticky
- Dara dara: Lazily
- Hoka hoka: Steamy, warm food
- Fuwa fuwa: Furry or fleece
- Kara Kara: Sweating
Japanese onomatopoeia for emotions and feelings (Gijougo)
- Muka muka: Nauseous
- Ira ira: To be irritated
- Bikkuri: Shocked, surprised
- Noro noro: To feel lazy
- Boro boro: To feel mentally drained
- Zotto: To have a chill go down your spine, usually from a gross or scared feeling
- Musu-t: Pouting
- Run run: Humming happily
- Yakimoki: So worried that you can’t calm down
- Muku muku: Thinking up an idea, inspiration hits
- Doki Doki: Heart racing with excitement or nervousness
- Uki uki: Cheerful
Japanese onomatopoeia for movement (Giyougo)
- Guru guru: To spin around
- Yukkuri: To do something slowly
- Koro koro: Something rolls
- Uro uro): Wandering around
- Suta suta: Brisk walk
- Kote-t: Nodding off to sleep
- Kaba-t: Waking up with a start
- Gachi gachi: Teeth chattering
- Shiba shiba: Blinking rapidly
- Kaba kaba: Quickly chowing down on your food
- Dadadadadadada: Running
Japanese onomatopoeia for describing flavour and texture of food
- Pari pari: “crispy,” “crusty”
- Saku saku: “crunchy”
- Shaki shaki: “crisp and juicy”
- Torotto: “melt smoothly”
- Funwari: “fluffy,” “soft,” “light”
- Kachi kachi or Kochi kochi: “hard,” “stiff,” “rigid”
- Pasa pasa: “dry,” “dry out,” “hard to the touch”
- Shittori: “moist,” “soft to the touch”
- Pritto: “spicy and hot”
- Kotteri: “rich,” “heavy,” “lingering,” “fatty”
- Assari: “not heavy nor lingering,” “light”
- Neba neba: “sticky and slimy”
Japanese onomatopoeia for describing body type
- Gari gari: “scrawny,” “skinny,” “skin and bones,” “thin”
- Hossori: “slim,” “slender,” “thin”
- Suratto: “slim,” “slender”
- Pocchari: “chubby,” “plump”
- Muki muki: “muscular,” “brawny”
- Gacchiri: “well-built,” “big-boned,” “muscular”
- Sara sara: “smooth,” “dry,” “clean” (used when describing hair)
- Bosa bosa: “uncombed,” “tangled” (used when describing hair)
Japanese onomatopoeia for describing someone’s personality type or attitude
- Chaki chaki: “straightforward,” “frank”
- Saba saba: ”refreshing,” “unfussy”
- Tekipaki: “alert,” “well-organized,” “crisp”
- Honobono：”relaxed,” “heartwarming”
- Nohohon: “carefree,” “easygoing”
- Chara chara: “shallow,” “vain,” “playing around”
- Seka seka: “busy,” “restlessly,” “fidgety”
- Guzu guzu: “wasting time” or “dillydallying”
Japanese onomatopoeia for describing health conditions
- Me ga shoboshobo suru: “to have bleary eyes,” “to have puffy eyes”
- Me ga gorogoro suru: “feel like having something in one’s eye”
- Hana ga zuruzuru deru: “to have a runny nose”
- Hana ga muzumuzu suru: “one’s nose is tickling”
- Mimi ga kīn to suru: “to have a ringing noise in one’s ear,” “to have tinnitus”
- Kushun: sneeze sound
- Kon kon: cough sound
- Goho goho: strong cough
- Zoku zoku: shiver from fever
Japanese onomatopoeia for describing weather
- Kaminari ga gorogoro naru: Gorogoro is an onomatopoeia word which is used for the rumbling sound of thunder. Gorogoro is also used as the sound of a stomach, and the sound of a heavy object rolling.
- Pikatto hikaru: Pikatto is an onomatopoeia word to describe a flash of light or a short-lived glow. It can be used in many different ways, one of which is to describe lightning.
- Ame ga zāzā furu: Zāzā is an onomatopoeia word that describes the sound or state of heavy rainfall.
- Ame ga potsupotsu furi hajimeru: Potsupotsu or potsuripotsuri describes the sound of rain that started not too long ago.
- Ame ga parapara furu: Parapara describes the sound of it raining lightly.
- Donyori: “overcast,” “dull,” “sullen”
- Karatto: “clear up, (weather),” “dry,” “refreshing”
- Jime jime: “humid”
- Tsuru tsuru: “very slippery”
- Bisho bisho: “soaking wet”
Japanese onomatopoeia for expressing the action of sleeping
- Gūgū: To describe an actual snoring sound. It also describes the state of sleeping well, often associated with snoring.
- Gussuri:To indicate sleeping soundly.
- Suyasuya: To describe the state of someone sleeping comfortably and quietly, accompanied by the sound of light breathing.
- Utouto: refers to the inability to resist drowsiness, such as dozing off or nodding off. It refers to a light sleep that takes place outside of one’s regular sleeping hours.
Japanese onomatopoeia for expressing the action of laughing
- Kusukusu is the giggling sound used to describe suppressed laughter.
- Geragera describes the sound of guffawing in a rather loud voice.
- Kerakera is used for a higher-pitched laugh than geragera.(“K” sounds are used to describe lighter or higher-pitched sounds than “G” sounds.)
Japanese onomatopoeia for expressing the action of eating
- Paku paku: Used to describe the action of eating food quickly.
- Pero pero: Used to describe the action of someone (a person or animal) licking something.
Japanese onomatopoeia for expressing the action of looking
- Jirotto: the action of looking sternly for a moment or giving an accusing look.
- Jiro jiro: the action of blatantly and repeatedly looking something up and down, usually in an offensive way.
- Chira chira: becoming invisible from time to time.
- Kyoro kyoro: the action of looking around curiously or nervously.
Japanese onomatopoeia for expressing the action of crying
- Gyāgyā: high-pitched noisy crying or screeching.
- Shikushiku: quiet crying, usually by women or children.
- Mesomeso: the attitude of a crybaby who keeps moaning and groaning.
List of Japanese Onomatopoeia: FAQs
How many Japanese onomatopoeia are there?
The Japanese language has more than a thousand onomatopoeia with syllabic and repetitive words.
What do Japanese dogs say?
In Japanese onomatopoeia, the sound a dog makes is represented by “wan wan”.
What do Japanese pigs say?
In Japanese onomatopoeia, the sound a pig makes is represented by “buu buu”.
What does doki doki mean in Japanese?
In Japanese, “doki doki” is used to represent the sound of the heart beating because of excitement or nervousness.