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Goin’ Japanesque!

Basics of Japanese: Onomatopoeias

In Japanese, onomatopoeias are known as ぎおんご (giongo). While English uses them to a degree (especially in comic books or games for young kids), giongo are a featured part of the Japanese language—some of them you will frequently hear in just everyday conversation! The reason why is that Japanese has many more giongo than English.

Before we take a look at the more unique giongo you can find in Japanese, let’s first compare the ones that are also in English and see how similar—and different—they are.




Everyday Sounds



As you can see, some sounds are similar to English while others seem to be quite different. Now that you’ve seen a few examples, try to guess what the ones below mean. Use the list below the sounds to match the correct answer!

1. ガオー (gaoo)
2. しくしく (shikushiku)
3. にやにや (niyaniya)
4. ケロケロ (kerokero)
5. ぐるぐる (guruguru)
6. しーん (shiin)
7. ぴよぴよ (piyopiyo)
8. ぴとぴと (pitopito)
9. りーんりーん (riinriin)
10. かーん (kaan)

A. Silence
B. Weeping
C. Going in circles
D. Dripping faucet
E. Frog ribbit
F. Ringing phone
G. Baby chicks
H. Large bell
I. Smirking
J. Roar


Check your answers

ガオー: J. Roar
しくしく: B. Weeping
にやにや: I. Smirking
ケロケロ: E. Frog ribbit
ぐるぐる: C. Going in circles
しーん: A. Silence
ぴよぴよ: G. Baby chicks
ぴとぴと: D. Dripping faucet
りーんりーん: F. Ringing phone
かーん: H. Large bell

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About the author

Katrina has worked as a Japanese language teacher and freelance translator for several years. She loves traveling and has been all over Japan. Click here --> Free Japanese Lessons Practical Japanese Lessons

View all articles by Katrina