The word onomatopée (onomatopoeia) has been floating around the Internet as of late and I thought it would be fun to devote a post to French onomatopoeias vs. their English counterparts.
What is an onomatopoeia? An onomatopoeia is a word meant to mimic a certain sound made by un humain (a human), un animal (an animal) or un objet (an object). The spelling of an onomatopoeia should sound as close as possible to the actual sound it is trying to imitate.
The word itself comes from two Ancient Greek words: onoma meaning name, and poieo meaning to produce.
So let’s run through a few onomatopoeias in both French and English to give us an idea of how people hear things differently. You’ll find a number of these in both French and English bandes dessinées (comic books), dessins animés (cartoons) and livres pour enfants (children’s books). Keep in mind that there can be several onomatopoeias for the same sound but these are just some of the more popular ones.
The first onomatopoeia will be in French and the second in English.
1. Sleep: ron-ron vs. zzzzzzz
2. Sneeze: atchoum vs. achoo
3. Expression of pain: aïe! vs. ouch!
4. Crying baby: ouin-ouin vs. wah-wah
5. Drinking: glou-glou vs. slurp/glug
6. Beating heart: poum-poum vs. thump-thump
7. Hushing: chut vs. shh
1. Rooster: cocorico vs. cock-a-doodle-doo
2. Pig: groin-groin vs. oink-oink
3. Bird: cui-cui vs. tweet-tweet
4. Duck: coin-coin vs. quack-quack
5. Frog: croac-croac vs. ribit/croak
6. Snake: siff vs. hiss/sss
7. Owl: ouh-ouh vs. hoo-hoo
Sounds made by objects:
1. Clock: tic-tac vs. tick-tock
2. Ambulance siren: pin-pon vs. wee-woo
3. Gun firing: pan-pan! vs. bang-bang!
4. Car door slamming: vlan! vs. wham!
5. Water dripping: plic-plic vs. drip-drip
6. Doorbell ringing: dingue-dongue vs. ding-dong
7. Telephone ringing: dring-dring vs. ring-ring