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German Onomatopoeia Posted by on Jan 24, 2018 in Language

Today we’re going to look at onomatopoeia in the German language! The dictionary defines onomatopoeia as the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named (e.g. cuckoo, sizzle ).’ You might already be familiar with some of these words in English: Splash, boom, and many animal noises including miaow. Just like in English, each language has their own onomatopoeic words – let’s take a look at some German ones!

German Onomatopoeia

raindrop

Plitsch-Platsch – To plitter-platter (raindrop noise). Pronounced exactly as it is spelt.

 

SchluckenTo swallow, glug, swig. Pronounced: shlook-en.
Additionally, in the same way that you’d say A swig of water in English, in German you’d say Ein Schluck Wasser.

 

Mampf MampfTo munch/chew. Pronounced exactly as it is spelt.
From the verb mampfen.

 

KnirschenTo crunch. Pronounced: Knee-er-shen (with a hard K).
When you talk about snow crunching, you say Der Schnee knirscht – The snow crunches.

 

Hatschi/Hatschu – Achoo (sneezing sound). Pronounced: Hat-chee / Hat-choo.

 

SchnarchenTo snore. Pronounced: Shnar-chen (chen with ch as a soft, hissing sound- like a cat).

 

GähnenTo yawn. Pronounced: Gehh-nenn, with an elongated ä sound that makes it sound like a yawn!

 

Piep PiepTo cheep (bird noise). Pronounced: Peep peep.

Elephants

Photo: ‘Elephants’ by Ricky Wright on flickr.com under a CC license (CC BY 2.0)

TörööElephant trumpeting sound. Pronounced: Imagine you come across something disgusting and you exclaim errhh! That is roughly how the ö sounds in this word. Terhh-erhh. 

 

Klingeln – To ring (phone). Pronounced exactly as it is spelt.
In English the sound of a ringing phone goes ring ring or bring bring. In German, it goes kling kling or kling-a-ling!

 

Schlürfen – To slurp. Pronounced: Shloo-er-fen.

 

Hochwürgen – To throw up/regurgitate. Pronounced: Horch-woo-er-gen (soft ch in hoch, like hissing cat).

 

Rutschen – To slip. Pronounced: root-shen (oo in root is short – pronounced like oo in English word foot)

 

Kuckuck – Cuckoo. Pronounced: Kook-kook.

Cuckoo clock

What’s onomatopoeia called in German, by the way? It is called die Onomatopoesie. But it also goes by other names, including die Lautmalerei (‘the loud painting’) and die Klangnachahmung (‘the sound imitation’).

Can you think of any more onomatopoeic German words? Leave a comment! If I get enough, I’ll write a second post on it! 🙂

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About the Author: Constanze

Servus! I'm Constanze and I live in the UK. I'm half English and half German, and love writing about German language and culture. I also work as a group fitness instructor.


Comments:

  1. Robert:

    würgen
    keuchen
    kratzen
    flattern (Die große Fahne flatterte im Wind)
    gurgeln
    heulen

    • Constanze:

      @Robert Good ones, Robert! There are actually a lot in German! 🙂

  2. Pete Swanson:

    What about Zug?

    Zug, zug, zug, zug, zug………

    Pete

    • Constanze:

      @Pete Swanson Ooh yes, good one, Pete! Thanks 🙂

  3. Luke Barber:

    Tatü Tata is the sound of a siren (at least the kind of 2-tone siren used in most of Germany)