28 Surprising Japanese Onomatopoeia To Enhance Your Skills

Manga-page-japanese onomatopoeia words

Do you like manga and anime? If you do, you probably know about Japanese onomatopoeia. As a Japanese learner, you may have wondered if it is necessary to learn onomatopoeia words. The answer is yes! Learning Japanese onomatopoeia is a must if you want to speak fluently in Japanese. Today we will learn about onomatopoeia and how to use them. Also, we will see 29 of the most useful Japanese onomatopoeias so that you can include them in your daily vocabulary immediately.

Are you ready? 始めましょう!

What Are Onomatopeia?

Onomatopoeia refers to a word or expression that represents sound effects. Other languages also use them, but not as frequently as Japanese. For example, there are many English onomatopoeia that mimic the sounds of animals (quack, roar), humans (clap, gulp), and objects (boom, click). Japanese people use オノマトペ(onomatopeia) in daily life not only to mimic actual sounds but also to describe feelings. A sound effect resembling “emotional feelings” or “sensations” doesn’t exist in other languages.

Ice cream illustration Japanese onomatopoeic expressions

Types Of Japanese Onomatopeia

There are five kinds of Japanese onomatopoeia:

1. Giongo (擬音語)

[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]擬音語[/Speechword]

Refers to natural and inanimate sounds

  • ゴロゴロ (goro goro): Thunder rumbling or large objects rolling loudly
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]word[/Speechword]
  • ザーザー (za- za-): Heavy rain 
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]word[/Speechword]

2. Gitaigo (擬態語)

[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]擬態語[/Speechword]

Words that somehow describe conditions and states.

  • キラキラ (kirakira): Sparkling
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]word[/Speechword]
  • グルグル (guru guru): Dizzy
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]word[/Speechword]

3. Giseigo (擬声語)

[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]擬声語[/Speechword]

Words that mimic actual animal and human sounds.

  • ワンワン (wanwan): Woof-woof (dog)
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]word[/Speechword]
  • ニャーニャー (nyanya): Meow-meow (cat)
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]word[/Speechword]
  • モーモー (mo-mo-): Moo-moo (cow)
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]word[/Speechword]
Toy with balloon-Japanese onomatopoeic expressions

4. Giyougo (擬容語)

[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]擬容語[/Speechword]

Sounds that are used to describe movements and motions.

  • グルグル (guru guru): To spin around
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]word[/Speechword]
  • ガチガチ (gachi gachi): Teeth chattering
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]word[/Speechword]

5. Gijougo (擬情語)

[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]擬情語[/Speechword]

Sounds to express feelings or emotions.

  • るんるん (run run): Humming happily
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]word[/Speechword]
  • やきもき (yakimoki): Feeling so worried that you can’t calm down
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]word[/Speechword]

How To Use Japanese Onomatopoeia?

Japanese onomatopoeia is usually used as adjectives, but they function as adverbs, too. There is no strict way to write them. Some authors say that it’s “better” to use both of the Japanese writing systems: hiragana for “soft sounds” and katakana for “hard sounds” or emphasis. However, that’s not mandatory. You don’t need to overthink this! You can use either and just focus on the context. 

You can use these mimetic words in conversational Japanese to sound more natural and expressive. However, since there are thousands of them, it is recommended that you learn the most common ones first. Pay close attention when you are reading manga, watching doramas, or listening to a conversation in Japanese. The best way to learn onomatopoeia words is to see them in action.

Alright, enough about theory! Let’s see more examples.

28 Surprising Japanese Onomatopoeia

1. ニャーニャー (nyanya): Meow-meow (cat)
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]ニャーニャー[/Speechword]

  • 猫はニャーニャーと鳴きます。
  • Neko wa nyānyā to nakimasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]猫はニャーニャーと鳴きます[/Speechword]
  • The cat meows.

2. ブーブー (bu-bu-): Oink-oink (pig)
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]ブーブー[/Speechword]

  • 豚はブーブーとうるさいです。
  • Buta wa būbū to urusaidesu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]豚はブーブーとうるさいです[/Speechword]
  • Pigs are noisy.

3. くすくす (kusukusu): Sound of someone giggling.
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]くすくす[/Speechword]

  • 彼女はくすくすと笑っています。
  • Kanojo wa kusukusu to waratte imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]彼女はくすくすと笑っています[/Speechword]
  • She is giggling.

4. ゲラゲラ (geragera): Sound of someone laughing out loud.
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]ゲラゲラ[/Speechword]

  • 彼はゲラゲラと笑っています。
  • Kare wa geragera to waratte imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]彼はゲラゲラと笑っています[/Speechword]
  • He is laughing out loud

5. ぱくぱく (pakupaku): Mimics the action of devouring a lot of food.
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline] ぱくぱく[/Speechword]

  • 子供がパクパク食べています。
  • Kodomo ga pakupaku tabete imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]子供がぱくぱくたべています[/Speechword]
  • The child is eating a lot.

6. ぺろぺろ (peropero): Describes the sound of a person or animal licking something.
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]ぺろぺろ[/Speechword]

  • あの子はアイスクリームをぺろぺろ舐めています。
  • Anoko wa aisukurīmu o peropero namete imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]あの子はアイスクリームをぺろぺろ舐めています[/Speechword]
  • That girl is licking her ice cream.

7. ピヨピヨ (piyo piyo): Peep or chirp.  
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]ピヨピヨ[/Speechword]

  • ヒヨコがピヨピヨ鳴いています。
  • Hiyoko ga piyopiyo naite imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]ヒヨコがピヨピヨ鳴いています[/Speechword]
  • A chick is chirping.

8. きょろきょろ (Kyorokyoro): Represents the action of looking around curiously.
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]きょろきょろ[/Speechword]

  • 彼はいつもきょろきょろしています。
  • Kare wa itsumo kyorokyoro shite imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]彼はいつもきょろきょろしています[/Speechword]
  • He is always looking around.

9. ぎゃあぎゃあ (gyāgyā): High-pitched cry or screeching. 
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]ぎゃあぎゃあ[/Speechword]

  • 赤ちゃんがぎゃあぎゃあ泣いています。
  • Akachan ga gyāgyā naite imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]赤ちゃんがぎゃあぎゃあ泣いています[/Speechword]
  • The baby is crying loudly.

10. しくしく (shikushiku): Mimic the sound of someone sobbing.
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]しくしく[/Speechword]

  • 妹はしくしく部屋で泣いています。
  • Imōto wa shikushiku heya de naite imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]妹はしくしく部屋で泣いています[/Speechword]
  • My little sister is sobbing in her room.

11.ドキドキ (Dokidoki): Describes the sound of a rapid heartbeat and expresses excitement or nervousness.
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]ドキドキ[/Speechword]

  • 彼と会うとドキドキします。
  • Kare to au to dokidoki shimasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]彼と会うとドキドキします[/Speechword]
  • My heart beats fast when I see him.
Girl-surprised-Japanese sound effects

12. わくわく (wakuwaku): Describes a feeling of excitement or a positive expectation.
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]わくわく[/Speechword]

  • 明日から旅行なのでわくわくしています。
  • Ashita kara ryokōnanode wakuwaku shite imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]明日から旅行なのでわくわくしています[/Speechword]
  • I’m excited because I’m traveling from tomorrow.

13. ざあざあ (zāzā): Sound of heavy rainfall.
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]ざあざあ[/Speechword]

  • 雨がざあざあ降っています。
  • Ame ga zāzā futte imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]雨がざあざあ降っています[/Speechword]
  • It is raining heavily.

14. つるつる (tsurutsuru): Describes something very slippery.
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline] つるつる[/Speechword]

  • 床がつるつるしています。
  • Yuka ga tsurutsuru shite imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]床がつるつるしています[/Speechword]
  • The floor is slippery.

15. ぱりぱり (paripari): Something “crispy” or “crusty.”
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]ぱりぱり[/Speechword]

  • このお煎餅はぱりぱりしています。
  • Kono o senbei wa paripari shite imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]このお煎餅はぱりぱりしています[/Speechword]
  • This rice cracker is crispy.

16. さくさく (sakusaku): “crunchy.”
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]さくさく[/Speechword]

  • この天ぷらはさくさくしています。
  • Kono tenpura wa sakusaku shite imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]この天ぷらはさくさくしています[/Speechword]
  • This tempura is crunchy.

17. ねばねば  (neba neba): Means sticky or viscous.
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]ねばねば[/Speechword] 

  • オクラはねばねばしています。
  • Okura wa nebaneba shite imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]オクラはねばねばしています[/Speechword]
  • Okra is sticky.

18. がちがち (gachigachi): Something or someone “stiff,” “rigid.”
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]がちがち[/Speechword]

  • 彼は緊張してがちがちです。
  • Kare wa kinchō shite gachigachi desu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]彼は緊張してがちがちです[/Speechword]
  • He tends to be nervous.

19. がりがり (garigari): Someone “scrawny,” “too skinny.”
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]がりがり[/Speechword]

  • 彼女はがりがりです。
  • Kanojo wa garigaridesu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]彼女はがりがりです[/Speechword]
  • She is scrawny.

20. むきむき (mukimuki): Someone “muscular,” “brawny.”
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]むきむき[/Speechword]

  • 彼はむきむきです。
  • Kare wa mukimuki desu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]彼はむきむきです[/Speechword]
  • He is muscular.

21. さらさら (sarasara): Something “smooth,” “silky.”
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]さらさら[/Speechword]

  • 私の髪はさらさらです。
  • Watashi no kami wa sarasara desu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]私の髪はさらさらです[/Speechword]
  • My hair is silky.

22. ざわざわ(zawa zawa): Mimics the sound of a lot of people talking at once or something swaying.
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline] ざわざわ[/Speechword]

  • 木がざわざわと揺れています。
  • Ki ga zawazawa to yurete imasu
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]木がざわざわと揺れています[/Speechword]
  • The trees are swaying.

23. そろそろ (soro soro): Means something is about to happen.
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]そろそろ[/Speechword]

  • お母さんがそろそろ着きます。
  • Okāsan ga sorosoro tsukimasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]お母さんがそろそろ着きます[/Speechword]
  • Mom will arrive soon.

24.ぐつぐつ (Gutsu Gutsu): Mimics the sound of something simmering.
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]ぐつぐつ[/Speechword]

  • 鍋がぐつぐつしています。
  • Nabe ga gutsugutsu shite imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]鍋がぐつぐつしています[/Speechword]
  • The pot is simmering.

25.もじもじ (moji moji): Means hesitating or fidgeting.
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]もじもじ[/Speechword]

  • 彼は何かを言いたそうに もじもじ しています。
  • Kare wa nanika wo iita-sō ni mojimoji shite imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]彼は何かを言いたそうに もじもじ しています[/Speechword]
  • He is fidgeting as if he wants to say something.

26. だんだん (dan dan): Means gradually or little by little.
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]だんだん[/Speechword] 

  • 弟はテニスがだんだん上手くなっています。
  • Otōto wa tenisu ga dandan umaku natte imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]弟はテニスがだんだん上手くなっています[/Speechword]
  • My younger brother is getting better and better at tennis.

27. だらだら (dara dara): Means lazily or inefficient.
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]だらだら[/Speechword]

  • いつもだらだらしています。
  • Itsumo daradara shite imasu
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]いつもだらだらしています[/Speechword]
  • I’m always slacking off.

28. キュンキュン( kyun kyun): Means heartthrob or your heart tightening. 
[Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]キュンキュン[/Speechword]

  • 彼の言葉にはいつもキュンキュンしています。
  • Kare no kotoba ni wa itsumo kyunkyun shite imasu.
    [Speechword voice=”Japanese Female” isinline]彼の言葉にはいつもキュンキュンしています[/Speechword]
  • His words always make me quiver.

Are You Ready To Express Your Feelings With Onomatopeia?

As you can see, the Japanese language is quite versatile. Onomatopoeia words allow you to describe things you would not be able to in another language. So, enhance your communication with Japanese onomatopoeic expressions and connect with your Japanese friends on a different level. If you want to supercharge your language-learning process on this topic, there’s nothing more that we can recommend than the Ling App! Check it out below!

Master Japanese Onomatopeia With Ling

Ling Mascot-Learn Japanese-Japanese onomatopoeia

Are you ready to practice Japanese onomatopoeia? 

The Ling App offers you a unique experience, where you can access hundreds of gamified activities that will allow you to learn Japanese while having fun. So make the most of your time with bite-size lessons you can complete in 15 minutes. The best part? You can download it for free from the App Store or Play Store.

Want to further enhance your skills? Combine your Ling lessons with our weekly blogs, where you will learn vocabulary, grammar, and everything you need to speak Japanese like a pro. Happy learning!

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