48 Onomatopoeia to start with

The onomatopoeia, オノマトペ in Japanese, is one of the most fun and characteristic of the Japanese language.

It is not just for children, something that many students think at first, but they all use it and it is very useful to explain the state, emotion and sensation. And using it can bring a text or conversation to life.

For example, you can say:

彼女の目は輝いています。 (かのじょのめはかがやいています) Her eyes are shining.

But if you say:


Adding キラキラ would make the listener or reader more impressed because with the onomatopoeia キラキラpeople would imagine something like stars or light reflections.

When translating the Japanese onomatopoeia, you have to think carefully about how to do it to avoid that idea of ​​something “lost in translation”. Because you have to capture the feeling of the sounds they produce and there is no clear “translation” in another language.

Therefore, in the accompanied video I present the words with images. I have put the “translation” of each word, but memorizing it is not enough, you must try it yourself and feel it first hand because there is no other way to really understand these words.

擬音語 (Giongo) & 擬態語 (Gitaigo)

They say there are around 4,500 Japanese onomatopoeias. And besides, some new ones are always invented, so I can say that onomatopoeia is the most active part of the Japanese language.

Onomatopoeia can be divided into two parts: one, which is called Giongo 擬音語, are words that come from the sounds of animals (including humans) and nature.

For example, a person’s scream of terror would be キャー. The sound that the wind makes when it gently moves the leaves of the trees would be さわさわ。

The other type of onomatopoeia is called Gitaigo 擬態語, and they are words to express emotion, state or sensation using the form of a “sound” that does not really exist.

For example, when you feel nervous, that state is expressed with ドキドキ, which mimics the heartbeat.

Another example, you touch the surface of something and it is sticky, it would be ベトベト.

How to use onomatopoeia

Now we look at how to use them in sentences.

The use of onomatopoeia in Japanese is much broader than you imagine. We use it as an adjective, adverb or verb.


To explain how things are done or how they happen, we use the onomatopoeia as an adverb.

In this case, when we treat it as “sounds”, we must put the particle “と” although there are cases that we do not put it.


A woman screamed hysterically.

風がさわさわ(と) 吹く。 (かぜがさわさわとふく)

The wind blows moving the leaves gently.

In this case, you can say with and without “と”.


When you express a state, sensation, or emotion, we use it as a verb with する.

私 (わたし) はドキドキする。 It makes me nervous.

Or it can also be in the form-Te with iru.

私 (わたし) はドキドキしている。 I’m nervous.

ここは 、ベトベトする。 ここは 、ベトベトしている。 Here’s sticky.

In the case of a state of things, there is no difference in meaning between these two sentences.


In the case of number 2, some of them can also be used, not all of them, as an adjective-na, but generally in a colloquial conversation.

私 (わたし) は今 (いま) ドキドキです 。I’m nervous.

ここは 、ベトベトです。 Here’s sticky.

And if they are adjectives-na, not all, but some of them, can become adverbs, as in the adverb rule.

So for adjective-na you need to add the particle “に” to make it an adverb.

ベトベトになる. It gets sticky.

ハチミツをこぼして 、床 (ゆか) がベトベトになった。 I have thrown honey on the floor and the floor is now very sticky.

List of Onomatopoeias

48 Onomatopeyas para empezar [Aprender Japonés]
with English Subtitles
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[音] (おと) sound

ポキっと折る (おる) fold something long in two clearly
バリバリと噛む(かむ) bite something dry and hard
グツグツ (と) 煮る (にる) boil food at high temperature
コンコン (と) 叩く (たたく) knock on the door lightly
ドンドンと叩く (たたく) knock on the door loudly
ガリガリ(と) 削る (けずる) grinding things 
モグモク(と) 食べる (たべる) eat with energy
ゴクゴク(と) 飲む (のむ) drink with energy
チンする heating things in the microwave
ミシミシ (と) 鳴る (なる) the wooden floor sounds at every step

water comes out ...
ザーザー (と) 出る (で る) - very strong
チョロチョロ (と) 出る - a little
ポタポタ (と) 出る - drop by drop

バシッと殴る (なぐる) hit hard
ガーンとする receives a strong shock

[状態 、 感触] (じょうたい、しょっかん) state, touch, mouthfeel


パリパリする - thin and crisp
コリコリする - a little hard to bite
パサパサする - dry
フワフワする - fluffy


ツルツルする - smooth
ザラザラする - rough
ボコボコする - very rough

・ レタス lettuce
シャキッとする - crisp and alive
しなしなする - very soft and lifeless

・ 皮膚 (ひふ) skin
スベスベする smooth skin

・ お 腹 (おなか) stomach
ペコペコだ I'm hungry.
Only with the use of the adjective-na.

* Be careful, ペコペコする as a verb means, "always obey the superior".

[心の動き] (こころのうごき) The emotion

イライラする to be irritated
ワクワクする feel illusion
ドキドキする be nervous
ビックリする be very surprised
ウルウルする get emotional until you almost have tears
まったりする being relaxed doing nothing and enjoying it
キュンとする have "spark joy"
ジーンとする deeply moved

[行動] (こうどう) As a form of action

プンプンする get very angry
カチンとくる irritates me
ガッカリする disappointed
ニコニコする always be smiling
ハラハラする feel worried or scared when you follow the unstable movement of a person or things.
ペコペコする always obey the superior

見る (みる) See
じっと見る - observe
ジロジロ(と) 見る - see all sides
チラチラ(と) 見る - seeing something or someone from time to time hiding interest in him, her, things, or actions.