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 to learn Japanese? 始めましょう!

Ice cream illustration Japanese onomatopoeic expressions

Types Of Japanese Onomatopeia

There are five kinds of Japanese onomatopoeia:

1. Giongo (擬音語)

Refers to natural and inanimate sounds

  • ゴロゴロ (goro goro): Thunder rumbling or large objects rolling loudly
  • ザーザー (za- za-): Heavy rain 

2. Gitaigo (擬態語)

Words that somehow describe conditions and states.

  • キラキラ (kirakira): Sparkling
  • グルグル (guru guru): Dizzy

3. Giseigo (擬声語)

Words that mimic actual animal and human sounds.

  • ワンワン (wanwan): Woof-woof (dog)
  • ニャーニャー (nyanya): Meow-meow (cat)
  • モーモー (mo-mo-): Moo-moo (cow)
Toy with balloon-Japanese onomatopoeic expressions

4. Giyougo (擬容語)

Sounds that are used to describe movements and motions.

  • グルグル (guru guru): To spin around
  • ガチガチ (gachi gachi): Teeth chattering

5. Gijougo (擬情語)

Sounds to express feelings or emotions.

  • るんるん (run run): Humming happily
  • やきもき (yakimoki): Feeling so worried that you can’t calm down

Before we explore more onomatopeia words, I’m pretty sure you’re interested in memorizing these words on your own. Fret not. The Ling app is a handy language learning app that will help you. Want to see what it looks like? Check it on the App Store or Play Store now!

What Is An 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.

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)

  • 猫はニャーニャーと鳴きます。
  • Neko wa nyānyā to nakimasu.
  • The cat meows.

2. ブーブー (bu-bu-): Oink-oink (pig)

  • 豚はブーブーとうるさいです。
  • Buta wa būbū to urusaidesu.
  • Pigs are noisy.

3. くすくす (kusukusu): Sound of someone giggling.

  • 彼女はくすくすと笑っています。
  • Kanojo wa kusukusu to waratte imasu.
  • She is giggling.

4. ゲラゲラ (geragera): Sound of someone laughing out loud.

  • 彼はゲラゲラと笑っています。
  • Kare wa geragera to waratte imasu.
  • He is laughing out loud

5. ぱくぱく (pakupaku): Mimics the action of devouring a lot of food.

  • 子供がパクパク食べています。
  • Kodomo ga pakupaku tabete imasu.
  • The child is eating a lot.

6. ぺろぺろ (peropero): Describes the sound of a person or animal licking something.

  • 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.
  • That girl is licking her ice cream.

7. ピヨピヨ (piyo piyo): Peep or chirp.  

  • ヒヨコがピヨピヨ鳴いています。
  • Hiyoko ga piyopiyo naite imasu.
  • A chick is chirping.

8. きょろきょろ (Kyorokyoro): Represents the action of looking around curiously.

  • 彼はいつもきょろきょろしています。
  • Kare wa itsumo kyorokyoro shite imasu.
  • He is always looking around.

9. ぎゃあぎゃあ (gyāgyā): High-pitched cry or screeching. 

  • 赤ちゃんがぎゃあぎゃあ泣いています。
  • Akachan ga gyāgyā naite imasu.
  • The baby is crying loudly.

10. しくしく (shikushiku): Mimic the sound of someone sobbing.

  • 妹はしくしく部屋で泣いています。
  • Imōto wa shikushiku heya de naite imasu.
  • 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.

  • 彼と会うとドキドキします。
  • Kare to au to dokidoki shimasu.
  • 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.

  • 明日から旅行なのでわくわくしています。
  • Ashita kara ryokōnanode wakuwaku shite imasu.
  • I’m excited because I’m traveling from tomorrow.

13. ざあざあ (zāzā): Sound of heavy rainfall.

  • 雨がざあざあ降っています。
  • Ame ga zāzā futte imasu.
  • It is raining heavily.

14. つるつる (tsurutsuru): Describes something very slippery.

  • 床がつるつるしています。
  • Yuka ga tsurutsuru shite imasu.
  • The floor is slippery.

15. ぱりぱり (paripari): Something “crispy” or “crusty.”

  • このお煎餅はぱりぱりしています。
  • Kono o senbei wa paripari shite imasu.
  • This rice cracker is crispy.

16. さくさく (sakusaku): “crunchy.”

  • この天ぷらはさくさくしています。
  • Kono tenpura wa sakusaku shite imasu.
  • This tempura is crunchy.

17. ねばねば  (neba neba): Means sticky or viscous.

  • オクラはねばねばしています。
  • Okura wa nebaneba shite imasu.
  • Okra is sticky.

18. がちがち (gachigachi): Something or someone “stiff,” “rigid.”

  • 彼は緊張してがちがちです。
  • Kare wa kinchō shite gachigachi desu.
  • He tends to be nervous.

19. がりがり (garigari): Someone “scrawny,” “too skinny.”

  • 彼女はがりがりです。
  • Kanojo wa garigaridesu.
  • She is scrawny.

20. むきむき (mukimuki): Someone “muscular,” “brawny.”

  • 彼はむきむきです。
  • Kare wa mukimuki desu.
  • He is muscular.

21. さらさら (sarasara): Something “smooth,” “silky.”

  • 私の髪はさらさらです。
  • Watashi no kami wa sarasara desu.
  • 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.

  • 木がざわざわと揺れています。
  • Ki ga zawazawa to yurete imasu
  • The trees are swaying.

23. そろそろ (soro soro): Means something is about to happen.

  • お母さんがそろそろ着きます。
  • Okāsan ga sorosoro tsukimasu.
  • Mom will arrive soon.

24.ぐつぐつ (Gutsu Gutsu): Mimics the sound of something simmering.

  • 鍋がぐつぐつしています。
  • Nabe ga gutsugutsu shite imasu.
  • The pot is simmering.

25.もじもじ (moji moji): Means hesitating or fidgeting.

  • 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.
  • He is fidgeting as if he wants to say something.

26. だんだん (dan dan): Means gradually or little by little.

  • 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.
  • My younger brother is getting better and better at tennis.

27. だらだら (dara dara): Means lazily or inefficient.

  • いつもだらだらしています。
  • Itsumo daradara shite imasu
  • I’m always slacking off.

28. キュンキュン( kyun kyun): Means heartthrob or your heart tightening. 

  • 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.
  • 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

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 on your phone and take it anywhere with you!

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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