Transparent Language Blog

Heehaw or Eeyore: Onomatopoeias in Foreign Languages Posted by on Feb 3, 2014 in Archived Posts

WHAM! One of my favorite aspects of a language is onomatopoeia—the words assigned to specific sounds, like the woof woof of your childhood dog, or the vroom vroom of a new car.

Part of the reason onomatopoeic words differ among languages is the availability of sounds in each language. A diving bird obviously can’t make a woosh in a language without a “sh” sound. But sometimes, it’s just the ear of the beholder. An American donkey might say hee-haw, a British donkey would make more of an eeyore sound. (For those of you who ever wondered where Eeyore got his name, you’re welcome!)

Have some fun exploring the list below of unfamiliar onomatopoeias for familiar sounds, and be sure to add to the list in the comments!

1. Taatuutaatuu! (Dutch)

An American ambulance might say wee woo wee woo, but a Dutch ambulance siren wails out taatuu taatuu!


 2. Pachi pachi! パチパチ (Japanese)

You may be used to roasting marshmallows over a fire that crackles, but a Japanese fire would sound more like pachi pachi (パチパチ).

fire13. Chicchirichí! (Italian)

 Ever been woken up to the untimely cockadoodledooooo! of a rooster? If you were in Italy, that rooster was actually saying chicchirichí!

rooster14. Ko ack ack ack! (Swedish)

 If Kermit the frog were Swedish, he’d be more likely to croak ko ack ack ack than ribbit ribbit.

frog15. Schluck (German)

 You may gulp down some water on a hot day, but all the Germans will hear is schluck schluck schluck!


6. ¡Cataplum! (Spanish)

The Black Eyed Peas may sing boom boom pow, but to Spanish speakers, explosions sound more like ¡Cataplum! explosion1

Now, if only we could figure out what the fox says…  What are some of your favorite onomatopoeias in other languages?

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About the Author: meaghan

Meaghan is the Marketing Communications Manager at Transparent Language. She speaks enough French and Spanish to survive, and remembers enough Hausa to say "Hello my name is Meaghan, I'm studying Hausa." (But sadly that's it).


  1. Samuel:

    Cataplum! in spanish, seriusly? ¬¬’

    • mer:

      @Samuel actually no, is catapum and that sound in only when something falls and make a big noise. there is no sound for fireworks or something like that. explosion is boom like everywhere.

  2. Hennie frank:

    Oke in dutch. THE cock says kukelekuuu, a trog says kwaak kwaak, à cow says boeh, à checken says toktok, a pig says knor knor,

  3. Aga:

    Polish sounds:
    a dog – hau-hau (like English how how)
    a frog – kum kum
    a rooster – kukurykuuuu!
    a duck – kwa kwa

  4. nana:

    In indonesian, the rooster sound kukkuruyuuuuuuuk and the dog bark like guk guk guk then the bird tweet cit cit cit cuit I love to study language

  5. Jesper:

    In sweden: Duck goes “Kvack kvack” Dog goes “voff voff” Cat goes “Mjau” Pigg goes “nöff” Frog goes “Kvack kvack” or Kväck kväck” or “koack koack” or just “rabbit” You may hear gulp but we in sweden hear “klunk” and when the fireworkes explode we say “Kaboom”

  6. Rifgat:

    Russian ones are funny: Koo-Kah-Reh-Koo (rooster); boo-lk (plonk); khryu-khryu (oink); kva-kva (ribbit) etc.

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