In this lesson you will learn all about Japanese onomatopoeia which are words that resemble sounds. Some examples in English are splash, bang, zap and beep and you will learn how similar words are used in daily Japanese conversation.
Listen to the podcast for dialogue examples as well as vocabulary and grammar explanations.
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Main Dialog 1 – Daily Japanese Onomatopoeia (Japanese)
Main Dialog 1 – Daily Japanese Onomatopoeia (Pronunciation)
A: Ne, soto mite, ame ga zaa zaa futteru yo.
B: Kaminari mo gorogoro natteru. Hara hara suru.
A: E? Dōshita no. Daijōbu?
B: Tenki ga waruku naru to atama ga kurakura surun da. A: Chotto yasundara?
B: Un, sō suru.
Main Dialog 1 – Daily Japanese Onomatopoeia (English)
A: Hey, look outside, it’s raining really hard.
B: The thunder is rumbling too. I feel kinda nervous. A: Eh? What’s the matter? Are you OK?
B: When the weather turns bad my head gets dizzy. A: Why don’t you have a rest?
B: Yup, I’ll do that.
About Japanese Onomatopoeia
In this lesson we are studying Japanese onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia are words that resemble sounds such as splash, bang and beep. Japanese also has onomatopoeia and they are called 擬音語 Giongo.
There is a huge number of Japanese giongo and they are frequently used in casual daily conversation. Therefore they are worth learning as they will improve your comprehension and make you sound more natural when speaking.
However, because there are so many giongo, it would be impossible to teach them all in a single lesson. Also, students of Japanese sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of them. However, if you get regular listening and speaking practice in Japanese, you can eventually start to pick them up naturally.
You’ll notice a common pattern with most giongo which is a pair of repeating sounds las below (although there are exceptions):
コロコロ Korokoro The sound of something rolling
ドキドキ Dokidoki Excitement (from the sound of a beating heart)
Another thing you might notice is that some giongo are written in Katakana and others Hiragana. There aren’t any strict rules on this but generally speaking, Hiragana is used for softer sounds and Katakana for harder sounds.
Also, although it’s not strictly necessary to learn the following grammar rules, giongo are divided up into five different types.
Here are the five types and examples:
- 擬音語 Giongo
These are words that resemble sounds made by inanimate objects and nature as mentioned before.
ゴロゴロ – Gorogoro – Rumbling (thunder)
コロコロ – Korokoro – Sound of rolling
ガタガタ – Gatagata – Rattling
ガチャ – Gacha – Sound of a door closing or similar sound
- 擬態語 Gitaigo
These describe conditions and states of things.
クラクラ – Kurakura – Feeling dizzy
すべすべ – Subesube – Smooth to the touch
フワフワ – Fuwafuwa – Fluffy
もちもち – Mochimochi – Chewy, sticky, squidgy
- 擬声語 Giseigo
These are animal and human sounds.
ワンワン – Wanwan – Woof
ニャン – Nyan – Meow
コケコッコー – Kokekokkoo – Cock-a-doodle-doo
ゲロゲロ – Gerogero – Croak (frog)
ガオー – Gaoo – Roar (lion, tiger etc.)
- 擬容語 Giyōgo
These describe movements and motions.
ノロノロ – Noronoro – Move very slowly
ぐっすり – Gussuri – Sleep soundly
ブルブル – Buruburu – To shiver
- 擬情語 Gijōgo
These describe feelings and emotions.
ウキウキ – Ukiuki – Excitement
ワクワク – Wakuwaku – Excitement
もやもや – Moyamoya – To feel uneasy or gloomy
Random phrase of the week
出た！ Deta! Oh here we go again…
Most students of Japanese will immediately recognize 出た deta as the verb which means to leave, exit or go out of something. However, there is deeper meaning.
Deta can be used as a negative criticism or a tease in response to something someone says repeatedly. In this scenario it means something like “oh here we go again” or “Oh no, not that again” or “Again?”.
So if someone starts talking about their favorite conspiracy theory again you can say:
Or your uncle starts talking about his health problems for the 100th time:
Or your mum starts bugging you to do the chores yet again:
Of course this isn’t very polite so only use this with your friends and family members.