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Onomatopoeia List – What Are Some Fun Japanese Onomatopoeia Words?

Onomatopoeia List - What Are Some Fun Japanese Onomatopoeia Words?

Hello everyone! Ai-chan here!

I was talking to my Japanese friends recently and realized how much they use onomatopoeia in conversations. Onomatopoeia in English never amazes me as much as it does in Japanese because in Japanese, it feels like they have a word for everything! Unlike English onomatopoeias, Japanese has words to describe not only the sounds made by animate or inanimate object, but also feelings, actions and state. I’m pretty sure manga lovers would have known this already!

I think some of the common ones would be ワンワン (wan wan), the sound of a dog barking,ドキドキ (doki doki), the sound of a heartbeat, and キラキラ (kira kira), to describe something that is glittering. One of my favorite onomatopoeias is ゴロゴロ (goro goro) which expresses something big is rolling around. When my friends ask me what I do in my free time, one of my answers would definitely be, 家でゴロゴロする (ie de goro goro suru) which means rolling around in the house. Not literally, but it means to lie about and relax – well, in a lazy manner. (Don’t judge me, I just love to relax after a long day at work! (^_^) )

Right, enough about me. Let’s talk more about onomatopoeia!

There are two types of onomatopoeia in Japanese, 擬音語 (giongo) and 擬態語 (gitaigo). Giongo are like the onomatopoeias in English, words that mimic a sound. Here are some examples:

Japanese English
ゴホンゴホン (gohon gohon) Cough
ドッカーン (dokka-n) Explosion
ニャニャ (nya nya) Meow (Sound of a cat)

Next, we have gitaigo, words that describe a situation, feelings or state using a sound. Here are some examples:

Japanese English
ワクワク (waku waku) Excited, anxious with anticipation
ニヤニヤ (niya niya) Grin/smile
ジロジロ (jiro jiro) Staring fixedly

Note that in different situations, a different variation of the onomatopoeia may be used. Although it has the same meaning, it gives off a more detailed explanation. For example, instead of ゴホンゴホン, we use ゴホゴホ for small coughs in a row. Some words on the other hand, gives off a different feeling depending on whether it’s a repetitive onomatopoeia or a shorter version. For example, ドキドキ describes the sound of a rapid heartbeat caused by excitement or nervousness while ドキッと describes one big heartbeat associated with surprise.

Let me give you a few more onomatopoeia examples put in sentences.

  1. お腹がペコペコだ。
    Onaka ga peko peko da.
    “I’m starving.”
  2. その日、コンピューターが何度もフリーズをして、僕は本当に、イライラした。
    Sono hi, konpyūtā ga nando mo furīzu o shite, boku wa hontō ni iraira shita.
    “That day, my computer froze multiple times, which really made me irritated.”
  3. 私は東京をふらふら歩くのが好きだ。
    Watashi wa Tōkyō o furafura aruku no ga suki da.
    “I like wandering around Tokyo.”

Onomatopoeias are really interesting because there’s so much that you can learn about them, and I think being able to use onomatopoeia in conversations makes you sound more natural.

Are you interested in learning more about onomatopoeia?
Click here for more interesting onomatopoeia lessons!

That’s all for today! Thank you for reading! 🙂