Starting with the Japanese onomatopoeia!

Learn Japanese easily! You may not be familiar with the word “onomatopoeia,” but it describes a type of word that you probably use all the time. Do you say things like “bang”, “smack” or “woof”? If so, you’re using an onomatopoeia, which is simply a word that sounds like the things or action it describes. Onomatopoeia is incredibly common in English, and it has an incredible number of uses in Japanese as well. This Japanese article is here to provide a detailed introduction to the world of Japanese onomatopoeia. You will learn about the two types of Japanese onomatopoeia and how they are used. You’ll also find great examples and lots of information on how to incorporate onomatopoeia into your Japanese vocabulary.

Vocabulary: In this article, you will learn the following words and phrases:

ibiku o kaku – “snoring” (verb 1)

nemuru – “to sleep”

Doa – “gate”

shimaru – “to close, to be closed” (verb 1)

ashita oro asu – “morning”

deet – “date” (romantic)

kinoo – “Yesterday”

kyoo – “today”

akeru – “open” (verb 2)

okiru – “wake up, get up” (verb 2)

Grammar: In this article, you will learn the following words and phrases:


What is onomatopoeia?


According to the dictionary, “onomatopoeia” is the formation of a word from a sound associated with its name. Examples in English include words like “crash” and “splash.” The sounds of words imitate the meaning. Also, many animal sounds such as “woof-woof” and “neigh” are examples of onomatopoeia.

——————–——————–——————————–japanese onomatopoeia


There are two types of Japanese onomatopoeia:

  • jongo
  • gitaigo

This is because some Japanese onomatopoeia do not actually imitate the sounds, but follow the same shape.

  1. giongo They are the true onomatopoeias. That is, they imitate sounds like our English onomatopoeia.
  2. gitaigoon the other hand, try to use sound patterns similar to those of jongoalthough they do not imitate real sounds.

To further confuse the matter, there are some words that have both giongo Y gitaigo attributes for example, there are guuguu.


  1. giongo: “snore sound, snore”Tomu-san wa guuguu a ibiki o kaite iru.

    “Tom is diving.”

  2. gitaigo: “sleep well, sleep soundly”Tomu-san wa guuguu nemutte iru.

    “Tom is sleeping well.”




In the first example, the onomatopoeia guuguu refers to the sound of the snorkel. In the second example, guuguu it expresses the concept of deep sleep, although deep sleep generally does not have any sound.

——————–——————–——————————–Examples of Sentences


  1. giongo:Doa ga batan to shimatta.

    “The door slammed shut.”

  2. gitaigo:Ashita wa deeto da. Ukiuki suru.

    “I’m going on a date tomorrow. I’m excited.”

——————–——————–——————————–some additional notes



  1. Many Japanese onomatopoeia are repetitive. That is, the syllable or pair of syllables is repeated.
  2. We can use Japanese onomatopoeia as adverbs, adjective-like words, adjectival parts of sentences, and as verbs when combined with “and”. In this lesson, you will see how to use each onomatopoeia correctly.
  3. Since most of these words are of Japanese origin, they are not usually written in kanji. However, they are often written in katakana and occasionally in hiragana.

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