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Mar 14, 2024 | Japanese Translation

Onomatopoeia In Japanese: The Fascinating Sound Words

Onomatopoeia in Japanese are the words that represent or create sounds. In English, they sound like – whoosh, pop, crackle, meow, etc. We use them in our oral and written language to add more substance and visceral to our language.

It’s like adding fragrance, color, or texture to our saying.

Many people in the past considered the Japanese language “vague” inaccurately. Onomatopoeia words are wonderfully filling that void. And, somehow, differently, than we see in English and most European languages.

In this interesting blog, we will explore Japanese onomatopoeia words, the Japanese onomatopoeia list, and the meaning of onomatopoeia.

So, let’s start our journey and dive deep into onomatopoeia in Japanese.

What Is Onomatopoeia?

What Is Onomatopoeia?

Onomatopoeia can be any word, phrase, or expression that imitates or recreates a sound or feeling. Japanese use these words in everyday conversation to express sounds and, most importantly, feelings. 

Using thousands of Onomatopoeia Japanese express their true feelings with amazing sound effects. Here feeling いそいそ (iso iso: “enthusiastic”) now? Let’s continue!

As mentioned earlier, the Japanese use these English to express sounds, noises, animal sounds, and feelings. Comics and children’s books are the best examples. You will often see words like “moo moo” for a cow and “vroom vroom” for a car.

Onomatopoeia in Japanese is also used to communicate with kids.

Japanese have taken this to a new level. Onomatopoeia in Japanese offers lots of nuances to express sounds. That includes sounds of nature, animals, objects, and feelings and movements.

Amazing! Isn’t it?

Let’s discuss the types of Onomatopoeia. We will also explore the onomatopoeia examples.

Types Of Onomatopoeia In Japanese

Types Of Onomatopoeia In Japanese

Japanese onomatopoeia is amazing. They use words to mimic sounds, feelings, and situations. Onomatopoeia in Japanese is a significant part of people’s casual speech.

The onomatopoeia can be classified into five major groups:

  • Giseigo (擬声語): Sound made by animals or humans.
  • Giongo (擬音語): Sounds from inanimate objects and nature.
  • Gitaigo (擬態語): Sounds used to describe a condition or state.
  • Giyougo (擬容語): Sounds used to describe movement or motion.
  • Gijougo (擬情語): Sounds used to describe feelings.  

Japanese onomatopoeia is divided into five types, out of which Giseigo and Giongo are the only two that exist in the English language.

They represent a sound we can hear, like a hissing snake or buzzing bee. We will see examples of all five types.

Before that, let’s understand how to use Japanese onomatopoeia.

Also, explore Itadakimasu Meaning in this interesting blog.

How To Use Japanese Onomatopoeia?

Types Of Onomatopoeia In Japanese

Usually, the words used in Japanese onomatopoeia are repetitive. That is, the syllable or the pair of syllables are repeated. 

For example, the word  キラキラ (kirakira) means “twinkle” or “glitter” and repeats the syllable “Kira.”

Most onomatopoeia in Japanese originated in Japan, so most words are not written in 漢字 (kanji). However, they are usually written in カタカナ (katakana) and sometimes in ひらがな (hiragana).

Most words are used as adverbs, adjectives like words, or adjectival phrases. You will also find some words used as verbs when combined withする (suru) or やる (yaru).

For example, the word ウキウキ (ukiuki) meaning “be excited.” It can be used as a verb with “suru.” Suru and yaru mean to do.

Your search for the Japanese Translator and NAATI Translator ends here!

 

Two Types Of Onomatopoeia In Japanese: 擬音語 (Giongo) and 擬態語 (Gitaigo)

Still wondering is Japanese hard to learn? Now you know there are many types of Japanese onomatopoeia. Some onomatopoeia in Japanese don’t only mimic sounds but are used to express human feelings or actions.

But those words also follow the same pattern and are similar to the words which mimic sounds. That’s the reason we collectively call them “onomatopoeia.”  

Here we have mentioned two useful types of onomatopoeia. These are 擬音語 (ぎおんご giongo) and 擬態語 (擬態語 gitaigo). The kanji character (gi), at the start of both of them, means “mimic.”

擬音語 (Giongo)

Giongo is the more extensive term for onomatopoeia words, similar to English onomatopoeia. Here, the kanji character meaning “sound” and “noise.” When we utter sound effects in words, we use giongo.

擬態語 (Gitaigo)

Gitaigo words are also mimetic. However, they don’t mimic real sounds. They attempt to utilize similar sound patterns as giongo.

Here, the kanji character (Tai) means “condition,” “appearance,” and “action.”

To make the matter more complex. Some words have both giongo and gitaigo aspects.

At the same time, when you use it as gitaigo, it means “to sleep well.” It describes the concept of sound sleep and no need actually to imitate the snoring sound.

Onomatopoeia Meaning For Kids

Onomatopoeia Meaning For Kids

The literal meaning of onomatopoeia is very complex, at least for kids. However, the naming of a thing or action by vocal action or sound associated with it. For example, hiss or buzz.

However, to explain in a more easier way to kids, you can say:

  • Words having the sound of the word mimic or clarify the meaning.
  • Sound words.
  • Noisy words.
  • A with a particular sound, but also sounds like that specific sound.
  • Sound imagery as imagery is descriptive language.

This way, you have the option to introduce onomatopoeia easily to kids. Kids will surely love these unique words.

Now let’s explore the example of onomatopoeia in Japanese in all five categories.

Example Of Onomatopoeia

Example Of Onomatopoeia

Giseigo 擬声語

These are sounds made by humans and animals. Some of them may sound exactly like what you heard growing up.

Also, some sounds are even closer to what you hear in c what you write in your language.

Animal Japanese Sound English Sound
Bear がおー Roar
Bee ぶーん Buzz
Bird ちゅんちゅん Tweet
Cat にゃん Meow
Chicken こけこっこ Cluck
Cow もーもー Moo
Crow かーかー Caw
Dog わんわん Woof
Duck がーがー Quack
Fox こんこん ¯_()_/¯
Frog げろげろ Croak, Ribbit
Godzilla がおー Roar
Horse ひひいん Neigh
Monkey うきうき Oo oo aa aa
Mouse ちゅーちゅー Squeak
Owl ほーほー Hoo
Pig ぶーぶー Oink
Sheep めーめー Baa

 

Japanese English
がみがみ Being lectured or nagged by someone senior
あはは A cheerful or loud laugh
うわーん A child crying loudly
うぎゃー A surprised scream or a shriek
うふふ Chuckling like you know the secret
ぺちゃくちゃ Chatting about frivolous things
ごにょごにょ Muttering in a way that people can’t hear you
ぺらぺら Ability to speak a foreign language fluently
おほん Clearing your throat for attention
くすくす Chuckling and unable to hold it in

 

Giongo 擬音語

These are also real sounds. These are the sounds you see used in manga and anime. They’re the sound of the wind, the door slamming, and the phone ringing.

That means any natural sound you hear and not made by a person or animal falls under this category.

Japanese English
ごろごろ Thunder rumbling
ざーざー Heavy rain pouring
ぱたぱた Cloth flapping in the wind
ぴゅーぴゅー Strong and cold wintry winds
ばしゃっ Water scattering forcefully
こぽこぽ Gentle water bubbling
めらめら Bursting into flames suddenly
さくさく Stepping on sand or soft dirt
ごろごろ A boulder tumbling down a hill
たたたた Running at full speed

 

Gitaigo 擬態語

These are the words that describe conditions or states.

Japanese English
ぎらぎら A glint in your eyes
ほかほか A warm body or food
むしむし Too much warmth, unpleasantly hot
べとべと Sticky with sweat or blood
びしょびしょ Soaked by a large amount of water
がたがた A road that isn’t paved
でこぼこ Uneven ground
さんさん Lots of shining sunlight
ひんやり Feeling cool
じんわり Soaking slowly with sweat or tears

 

Giyougo 擬容語

These words express movements and motions. These are related to walking or traveling from one place to another.

Japanese English
うろうろ Wandering aimlessly
すたこら Fast-paced walking
のろのろ Walking at a snail’s pace, slow and sluggish
うとうと Half asleep, nodding off
ぐっすり Completely asleep
ぐーたら Not having the willpower to do anything
がくがく Joints, like knees, shaking
ぶるぶる Trembling from cold, fear, or anger
きょろきょろ Turning around, looking around restlessly
わいわい Clamorously

 

 

Gijougo 擬情語

Lastly, we also have words that are used to express feelings. These are also used widely in the manga.

Japanese English
くよくよ Worrying about trivial things
しんみり Lonely and quiet
うきうき Happy and full of hope
わくわく Excited from anticipation or pleasure
あたふた Hurriedly running around
あわあわ Grasp on the senses
もじもじ Unable to make decisions due to embarrassment or shyness
うっとり Being fascinated by something beautiful, spellbound
ずきずき Throbbing, grinding pain
もやもや Worrying or wondering what to do

 

Conclusion

We hope you loved the world of onomatopoeia in Japanese. These unique words represent sound and are heavily used in the Japanese language. These amazing words are classified into five main types. Stay connected for more such interesting and informative blogs.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Japanese onomatopoeia called?

The two main categories of Japanese onomatopoeias: Giseigo and Gitaigo. They both mean “onomatopoeia,” but with different nuances. Let’s see them: Giseigo 擬声語 are words that imitate artificial and natural sounds, any concrete sounds that you can hear.

2. How many Onomatopoeias are there in Japan?

Most people probably don’t know that the Japanese language is lively and easily animated. The language has over 1,000 onomatopoeia with syllabic and repetitive words. Which is three times more than in English. Onomatopoeias are classified into five major types.

David Lee

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