Onomatopoeia in Different Languages

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Posted: Jul 13, 2022

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Onomatopoeia is defined as the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named. The word itself has Greek origins and made the transition to English via Latin in the 16th century. It literally means ‘word-making’. Oddly, words tend to vary across different nationalities and cultures, sometimes dramatically. You wouldn’t expect that to be. After all, the sound of something is the same wherever you are in the world. If you drop a glass on the floor in England or Korea, for instance, it makes the same noise. Yet the sounds used to describe it can be significantly different in different countries.

And they can be a lot of fun. In English, Tick Tock is the sound we attribute to a clock. In Korean, the sound a train makes is Chik Chik Pok Pok. If you’re munching in Germany, the sound you’re making is Mampf Mampf. A crackling fire is Japan goes Pachi Pachi. Snoring in France is Ron Pshi. You’re accustomed to seeing Bang for the sound a gun makes (in English); the same gun goes Ba-Bakh or Pif-Paf in Russia.

Here’s how some animals sound around the world.

Many countries/languages agree how a CAT sounds.

English: Meow
Spanish: Miau
Italian: Miao
Vietnamese: Meo
French: Miaou
Swedish: Mjau
Russian: Myau

But not all of them do.

Korean: Yaong
Japanese: Nyan
Estonian: Näu
Germany: Schnurren

Mouse

U.S.: Squeak
Holland: Piep
Sweden: Pip-Pip 
Italian: Squitt
China: Zi
Korea: Jjik
Japanese: Chuu
Hungarian: Cin

Pig

U.S.: Oink
Japan: Buu
Italy: Gronf
Poland: Kwiii
Albanian: Hunk

Horse

English: Neigh
Danish: Vrinsk
Japanese: Hihiin
Swedish: Gnägg
Russian: I-Go-Go
Polish:  I-Haaa
Hungarian:  Nyihaha

Cow

U.S.: Moo
Thailand: More-more
France: Meuh
Korea: Mm-meh

Dog

U.S.: Woof
Philippines: Ow
Japan: Wan
Iceland: Voff
Rumania: Ham
Italy: Bau
China:  Wong
Turkey: Hev
Indonesia: Guk
Korea: Meong
Iran:  Haap
Holland: Blaf
Russia: Gav
Spain: Wau

Rooster

U.S.: Cock-a-doodle-doo
Sweden: Kuckeliku-kuckeliku
Turkey: Ügürüggüüüü
Switzerland: Kikerikii

Frog

U.S.: Ribbit
Brazil: Croc-croc
Greece: Quax
Italy: Kra-kra
Turkey: Vrak
German: Kwaak
Polish: Kum Kum 
Korean: Gae-Gool 
Thai: Op Op
Chinese: Guo Guo
Hungarian: Brekeke
Japanese: Kerokero

Duck

U.S.: Quack
Denmark: Rap
Rumanian: Mac
Turkey: Vak
France: Coin
Estonia: Prääks
Hungary: Háp
Israel: Ga-ga
Argentina: Cua-cua-cua
Japan: Won-won

Bee

English:  Bzzz
Japanese:  Būn
Turkey: Vzzz
Korean:  Boong
German:  Sum

Bird:

English: Tweet
French: Cui-Cui
Japanese: Chun- Chun
Spanish: Pio-Pio
Swedish: Pip-Pip
Dutch: Tjiep
Turkish: Jick-Jick
Italian: Chip Greek: Tsiou Tsiou

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