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Kaboom: Impact Noises in Russian Posted by on Aug 9, 2017 in language

If you are a learner of Russian, I bet your classes did not go into onomatopoeia in any detail. There are many words whose name imitates the sound of that thing, creature, or action, but let us concentrate on a type most likely to be seen in a comic book — the sounds of objects hitting each other.

Note that English does not always have precise equivalents for each Russian “sound” word, so the translations provided here are for guidance only. A more comprehensive overview of the correspondence between the languages is available here.

cats fighting

Image from Pixabay

Usage

Naturally, there are noun and verbs in Russian whose sound evokes what they stand for:

  • Смотри́, како́й гав-гав (Look at the bow-wow [dog]).
  • Во дворе́ что́-то тарахте́ло (Something was rattling in the yard).

However, some of these words can be used as the predicate (сказуемое, sometimes inaccurately called “verb”) of the sentence while remaining in their “noun” form.

  • Тут пельме́ни булты́х в кастрю́лю! (And the dumplings went plop into the pot!)

This is a very colloquial usage, and sometimes these words can even form their own sentence. Here are some of the common words referring to different kinds of impact.

Бабах

Usually stands for an explosion or a similar thunderous noise (cf. “kaboom” and “bang” in English).

Баба́х! ― загреме́л вы́стрел.
Вoom! the gunshot thundered.
[Юрий Дружков (Постников). Приключения Карандаша и Самоделкина (1964)]

Бац

Refers to a smacking sounds but could also mean any sudden turn of events (cf. “bam”).

Ка́жется, побе́да в рука́х, вдруг ― бац ― мат тебе́!
It looks like victory’s in your hand and all of a sudden — bam! — a checkmate.
[Василий Аксенов. Пора, мой друг, пора (1963)]

Шмяк

This is the soft, muffled sound of falling or hitting something.

Шага́ю к прозра́чной у́рне, шмяк – мой бюллете́нь па́дает на полупусто́е дно.
I step up to the transparent ballot box. Plop — my ballot falls onto the half-empty bottom.
[Елена ЧИНКОВА. Репетиция гражданского долга, или как я за Наполеона голосовала // Комсомольская правда, 2012.02.25]

Шлёп

This is the sound of a flat object, like a hand, hitting a flat surface, like the a wall, water, etc.

А но́неча подбро́сишь блин, он ми́мо сковороды́ шлёп на пол.
And these days, you go to flip a pancake, and it goes plop right past the pan onto the floor.
[Виктор Астафьев. Последний поклон (1968-1991)]

baseball player

Image from Pixabay

Хлоп

This is the sound of clapping or smacking something resonantly (“smack,” “whack).

Я его́ сло́женной в руке́ газе́той хлоп по мо́рде, хлоп.
So I whack him across the face with a folded paper in my hand.
[Сергей Есин. Стоящая в дверях // «Наш современник», 1992]

Хлобысь

This word is somewhere between бац and хлоп — it refers to a smacking sound but also to a sudden change.

Так он, как блю́до, ска́жем, отъе́ст, сейча́с хлобы́сь таре́лку о пол…
Say, as soon as he finished eating his meal, he would smash the plate on the floor…
[Л. М. Леонов. Барсуки (1924)]

What else would you put on this list?

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About the Author:Maria

Maria is a trained Russian translator. Originally hailing from Russia, she now lives in Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. When she's not at her computer, she is dancing, out taking photographs or practicing German or Spanish at local language meetups. Maria's professional updates are available on her translation site and on Twitter at @intorussian.


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