Something that doesn’t automatically come to mind is how animal noises can be different in various languages. The noise a cat or a dog makes in English is not the same in Japanese. That’s true for a lot of other languages as well, like French and Italian.
At this point, you’re wondering then how a dog barks in Japanese, or how a cat meows in Japanese. In this article, we list out the top 10 Japanese animal noises! Keep scrolling!
Why Learn Japanese Onomatopoeia?
Japanese onomatopoeia is not something you read in a textbook or have popped up in a language proficiency exam. That makes it the perfect break from studying without actually taking a break. I mean, isn’t it better to learn a language while you’re having fun?
Japanese onomatopoeia actually has a few categories. If you haven’t read our previous article on that, check that one out first! This one zooms into specifically animal noises. The category for this is called giseigo (擬声語), which classifies human and animal sounds.
The fun part about Japanese onomatopoeia is figuring out how it came about. Like how “doki doki” (ドキドキ) is the sound of heart beating. I bet it’s much more interesting figuring out animal noises!
Top 10 Animal Noises in Japanese
The list for Japanese animal noises can go on and on forever, and it can get quite overwhelming learning them all. So, to make it easier for you, we’ve listed out the top 10 ones, along with a bit of explanation to it!
This animal noise is the Japanese equivalent of “woof” for dog noises! I know, it’s nowhere near to a barking noise, but if you look at cute Japanese inu (犬, dog), it can kind of fit the look. In Japanese, “to bark” is “hoeru” (吠える)
Of course, the second most popular animal noise is the cat, or neko (猫). This is a “meow” in Japanese, but sometimes, cats hiss as well. That’s “しゃーっ”. You can also use this as a verb という音を出す to make “シャーっという音を出す”. This literally means “to make out the sound of a hiss”.
You see birds everywhere in Japan, and the noise these tori (鳥) make is said to be ピチュピチュ. Sometimes, they also make the sound チュンチュン (ちゅんちゅん). I guess that’s the Japanese version of “tweet tweet”, but all birds sound different, anyway. The verb to say “to tweet” is “さえずる”. This can also mean “to chatter” or “to whistle”.
If you don’t like birds, like me, shoo them away with “しっしっ!”
Oh, the English onomatopoeia is “moo” for cows (牛). In Japanese, it’s pretty similar: もーもー. Cows are described to make braying noises, and the verb “to bray” in Japanese is “いななく” .
Horses make the noise “neigh” in English. You wouldn’t believe what they sound in Japanese: ヒヒーン. The sound horses, or uma (馬) in Japanese, make in Nihongo isn’t what you’d expect, is it? The verb “to neigh” in Japanese is “いななく”.
One English onomatopoeia that I like the sound of personally is “ribbit”. Frogs are called kaeru (カエル) in Japanese. The sound that they make is ケロケロ. If it’s a bigger frog, they’ll make the noise ゲロゲロ instead.
There’s not one verb to describe croaking, but there is a noun: しわがれ声. If you want to say “to croak”, say it like this: カエルのしわがれ声.
One Japanese onomatopoeia that’s more accurate to the sound of the animal compared to the English onomatopoeia is the duck sound. In English, it’s “quack”. In Japanese, it’s ガーガー. “Duck” in Japanese is “あひる”.
There is also a Japanese equivalent of the noun “quack” in English. It’s “偽医者”or “やぶ医者”. This actually means “false doctor” or “bogus doctor”.
When I found out this Japanese animal noise, I was quite surprised. Monkeys make the “ooh ooh aah aah” noise in English, but in Japanese, monkeys (or saru, 猿) make the sound ウキウキ. Sometimes, the sound is also just “キキ”.
In Japanese, the word “金切声” refers to the noun for “screech”, while “怒鳴る” is a verb to mean “to roar”, “to bellow”, “to shout” or “to cry”.
We all hate flies. The sound it makes for us is “bzzz”, but in Japanese, it’s much more accurate. Hae (蝿) makes the noise “ブーン”. The noise can also be described in a verb, which is “ざわめく”. This verb can describe anything from a buzz to a murmur or a mumbling sound, like a few people talking at once.
Last but not least, there’s the rabbit noise. In English, usagi (ウサギ) doesn’t really have an onomatopoeia, but in Japanese, there’s a noise that they make when they hop: ピョンピョン. It’s so cute! You can also describe the action of ears flopping when they hop with this noise.
There’s one Japanese animal noise that’s multipurpose, and it’s the “roar”. A lion (ライオン), tiger (虎) or even a monster roars, so what’s that in Japanese? It’s “ガオー”.
The verb “to roar” has a few in Japanese: one is “donaru” (怒鳴る), another is “unaru” (唸る) and last is “hoeru” (吠える). One that is more familiar to me is “todoroku” (轟く), which can also be used as a noun “todoroki” (轟).
More Animal Noises?
Which Japanese animal noise is your favourite? There are so many more Japanese animal noises, but it would take ages to list them all. Use them as a fun learning break from your grammar and vocab sessions!