There are many onomatopoeias in Japanese and it is very daunting to remember all of them so good luck…  In this blog I will teach the most commonly used ones.

Japanese has a large inventory of sound symbolic or mimetic words, known in linguistics as ideophones.[1][2] Sound symbolic words are found in written as well as spoken Japanese.[3] Known popularly as onomatopoeia, these words are not just imitative of sounds but cover a much wider range of meanings;[1] indeed, many sound-symbolic words in Japanese are for things that don’t make any noise originally, most clearly demonstrated by shiinto (しいんと), meaning “silently”.(wikipedia)

Japanese Onomatopoeia

First we will start with onomatopoeias for animal sound effects.

animal sound

AnimalOnomatopoeia
Dog わんわん
Catにゃーにゃー
Cowもーもー
Horse ひひーん
Pigぶーぶー
Rooster こけこっこー
Frogけろけろ
Monkeyうきうき
Beeぶーん
Foxこんこん

Next we will see the onomatopoeias for people sound effects.

people sound

People sound effectOnomatopoeia
Light coughこほんこほん
Snoring loudlyぐうぐう
Sneezingくしゅん
Group of people being noisyわいわい
Whisperingこそこそ
Gobble a drinkがぶがぶ
To smileにこにこ
To slurpずるずる
To screamぎゃーぎゃー
To stareじろじろ

Now I will list the onomatopoeias for the sound effects made by things.

sound effects made by things

Sound effectOnomatopoeia
Lightちかちか
Train clackingがたんごとん
Knockingこんこん
Thunder rumbling, or large object rolling わいわい
Heavy rainざーざー
Thunder rumbling, or large object rolling ごろごろ
Crashがしゃん
Rustlingさわさわ
Scattered rain, going through pagesぱらぱら
Ringing りんりん

There are also onomatopoeias for conditions.

onomatopoeias for conditions

MeaningOnomatopoeia
humidむしむし
shinyつやつや
Stickyべとべと
Steamyほかほか
Spicyぴりぴり
Shocked with lightびりびり
Soaked with sweat, to be lazyだらだら
Sparklingきらきら
Wetびしょびしょ

There are onomatopoeias for feelings as well.

onomatopoeias for feelings

MeaningOnomatopoeia
Being nauseaousむかむか
To be lazyのろのろ
To have a chill in your spineぞっと
To be worriedやきもき
Thinking up an ideaむくむく
To be irritatedいらいら
Surprisedびっくり
Happyうきうき
To feel drainedぼろぼろ
Worrying about the pastくよくよ
Being fascinated by something beautifulうっとり

Now I will introduce some onomatopoeias for movements.

onomatopoeias for movements

MeaningOnomatopoeia
Clappingぱちぱち
To roll (something small)ころころ
To be slowたらたら
To spinくるくる/ぐるぐる
To move jaws with eating motionもぐもぐ
To grinにやにや
To flap somethingぱたぱた

There are so many onomatopoeias in Japanese and it would take so much remember all of them. You do not need to remember the whole thing at first just try and enjoy the uniqueness of the language now. You will naturally start remembering them by reading or hearing Japanese so just find your favorite onomatopoeias and remember them.

Other Examples

ぷにぷに
[Punipuni]
ほっぺがぷにぷにしています
[Hoppega punupuni shiteimasu]

ぷよぷよ
[Puyopuyo]
おなかがぷよぷよしています
[Onakaga puyopuyo shiteimasu]

さらさら
[Sarasara]
かみがさらさらです
[Kamiga sarasara desu]

くるくる
[Kurukuru]
かみがくるくるしています
[Kamiga kurukuru shiteimasu]

とんとん
[Tonton]
ドアをとんとんたたきます
[Doawo tonton tatakimasu]

どんどん
[Dondon]
ドアをどんどんたたきます
[Doawo dondon tatakimasu]

アツアツ
[atsu atsu]
“I want to eat a hot pizza right now.”
「すぐアツアツのピザを食べたいなぁ。」
sugu atsu atsu piza wo tabetai naa.

ゲロゲロ
[Gerogero]
I can hear frogs “ribbiting” in the garden.
「庭でゲロゲロしてるカエルが聞こえる!」
Niwa de gerogero shiteru kaeru ga kikoeru!

ザーザー
[ZaaZaa]
“Look, it’s really raining strong outside!”
「ほら!外で雨がザーザー降ってるよ!」
Hora! Soto de ame ga zaa zaa futteru yo!

キラキラ
kirakira
“Wow, the car is so shiny!”
「わー、車がめっちゃキラキラしてる!
Waa, kuruma gaa meccha kirakira shiteru!

コケコッコ
kokekokko
“The rooster was cockadoodledoing all morning.”
「今日の朝、雄鶏はずっとコケコッコとないていた。」
Kyo no asa, ondori wa zutto kokekokko to naiteita

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