Tag Archives: Japanese slang

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?