Tag Archives: Japanese expressions

Japanese Onomatopoeia

1 Mar

Do you know what “omomatopoeia” means?

I’m a native English speaker, but I’ve never heard that word in English before…and it looks hard to even pronounce!
(Can you read Japanese? The pronunciation of “omomatopoeia” is 「オノマトペ」).

An “onomatopoeia” is, according to the dictionary:

A word, such as ‘cuckoo’ or ‘boom’, formed by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent.

In Japanese, it’s 擬声語.

I didn’t know the word in English…but I do know what 擬声語 (“onomatopoeia“) are. I use them often in Japanese.
Perhaps more than in any other language, 擬声語 (“onomatopoeia“) are used alot in Japanese.

Even when different languages have 擬声語 (“onomatopoeia“) for the same meaning, they are usually quite different in different languages.
For example, the 擬声語 (“onomatopoeia“) for a dog’s bark is
Bow-wow” in English,
but it’s 「ワンワン」 (“Wan-wan“) in Japanese.
In Korean, it’s “Mon-mon“, and it’s “Gaf-gaf” in Russian.

Here are a few more of the countless Japanese 擬声語 (“onomatopoeia“):

  • 「パクパク」 (Paku-paku)…means “Eating; chewing” (the video-game “Pac-man” comes from this term.),
  • 「ケロケロ」 (Kero-kero)…means “Ribbit” (a frog croaking),
  • 「ブーブー」 (Buu-buu)…means “Oink oink” (a pig’s grunt),
  • 「ニコニコ」 (Niko-niko)…means “Cheerful“,
  • 「ワクワク」 (Waku-waku)…means “Excited“,
  • 「ドキドキ」 (Doki-doki)…means “Excited“,
  • 「ジロジロ」 (Jiro-jiro)…means “Stare at someone“,
  • 「ドンドン」 (Don-don)…means “the beating of drum“,
  • 団々」 (Dan-dan)…means “Gradually“,
  • 「ベタベタ」 (Beta-beta)…means “Sticky“,
  • 別々」 (Betsu-betsu)…means “Seperately“,
  • 「ガラガラ」 (Gara-gara)…means “Clattering“,
  • 「ギリギリ」 (Giri-giri)…means “Just barely“,
  • 「グルグル」 (Guru-guru)…means “Spinning; revolving“,
  • 色々」 (Iro-iro)…means “Various“, and
  • 「ペラペラ」 (Pera-pera)…means “Fluent; talkative“.

There are many more Japanese 擬声語 (“onomatopoeia“). They are used alot in casual Japanese.

Do you know any Japanese 擬声語 (“onomatopoeia“)? What are some in you native language?

Japanese Idioms

8 Feb

An idiom, by dictionary definition, is

An expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements…

(according to Dictionary.com)

In Japanese, it’s 慣用句 (kanyouku).

An example of an English-language 慣用句 (idiom) is “kick the bucket“…which, far from it’s literal definition, means “die“.

Here are some Japanese 慣用句 (idioms):

  • へそを曲げる (Heso-o-mageru): (lit. “bend your belly-button”) means: “To sulk“.
  • 尻尾をまく(Shippo-o-maku): (lit. “Coil your tail”) means: “Be defeated and demoralized” (same as “Run away with your tail between your legs”).
  • 目を丸くする(Me-o-maruku-suru): (lit. “Make round eyes”) means: “Be very surprised“.
  • 胸を打つ(Mune-o-utsu): (lit. “Beat your chest”) means: “Feel touched / emotional“.
  • アゴが外れる(Ago-ga-hazureru): (lit. “Dislocate your jaw”) means: “Laugh loudly“.
  • ゴマすり(Gomasuri): (lit. “Grind sesame”) means: “Brown nose / Sucking up“.
  • 花に嵐(Hana-ni-arashi): (lit. “Flowers to storms”) means: “Misfortune often follows happiness“.
  • 花より団子(Hana-yori-dango): (lit. “A snack rather than flowers”) means: “Practical things are preferred over the aesthetic“.
  • 根も葉もない(Ne-mo-ha-mo-nai): (lit. “Without roots nor leaves”) means: “Groundless / Unproven“.

I’ll add some more later.