Like a good little anime fan, I adore the Japanese language. I especially like just how expressively it can be spoken and one of my favourite aspects of the language is definitely the hundreds of onomatopoeia that exist. Literally, there are over 1 thousand.
In case you don’t already know, there are actually 5 categories of Japanese onomatopoeia. You may feel familiar with 2 of these categories through your own use of onomatopoeia in English but the Japanese also use them for situations you wouldn’t guess they would be used in.
- Giseigo (Sounds made my humans and animals)
- Giongo (Sounds made by inanimate objects and nature)
- Gitaigo (Descriptions of conditions or states)
- Giyougo (Descriptions of movements and motions)
- Gijougo (Descriptions of feelings)
Safe to say you wouldn’t expect the last 3 categories to be for onomatopoeia! However now that you know, I can move on to show my favourites and you won’t all think I’ve gone mad! So without further ado, here are my top 10 favourite Japanese onomatopoeia!
10. Perapera ???? / ????
Perapera can negatively describe continuous chatter but when used about someone talking in a foreign language it changes to a positive description meaning fluency. Anyone who is described as continually chatting or perapera when speaking a foreign language is being described as fluent in that language. Quite cool no?
9. Gorogoro ???? / ????
Gorogoro can describes heavy things rolling around but when used in reference to a human it means that person is lazing around doing nothing; perhaps aimlessly watching tv or lying about. The logic being that a human rolling around would be a useless act, so a person being gorogoro is someone not doing anything particularly useful! Definitely an onomatopoeia that I can relate to!
8. Orooro ???? / ????
Orooro always brings to mind comedic scenes of flustered characters. It describes confusion and panic, commonly in situations where someone is looking around chaotically, not knowing what to do. Orooro reminds me of Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin and his use of ‘oro?’ when confused by something; though it seems to be more of a catchphrase than a use of onomatopoeia.
7.Shiin ??? / ???
Shiin is the onomatopoeia to describe silence. Yes, I’m being serious! Japan actually has a word to describe the sound of silence. The ‘ee’ sound in the middle can be elongated as well for added emphasis
6. Chuu ??? / ???
Quite a simple one this time; chuu is the adorable little onomatopoeia for kissing. Picture a sweet peck on the lips or an affectionate kiss on the forehead. Those are the sorts of scenes that come to my mind with chuu.
5. Jii ?? / ??
Another strange one here that works similarly to shiin. Jii describes the sound of staring, so once again we have an onomatopoeia to describe something that makes no sound! Again, like the word shiin, the ‘ee’ sound can be elongated for emphasis. In context this would mean that the longer the vowel sound, the more intense the stare. I love just randomly hearing this sound effect over a visual of a character staring, it’s so strange but always hilarious.
4. Dokidoki ???? / ????
Ah dokidoki. Probably one of the first onomatopoeia an anime fan would come across. Dokidoki describes the sound of a thumping heart; this can be from fear or from romantic situations, the latter being what I find it is most commonly associated with. I probably love it as much as I do because it was one of the first that I learned about but it’s also just fun to say and joke around with.
3. Kirakira ???? / ????
Again we have an anime fan staple! Kirakira is the sound of sparkles and twinkling and shininess and everything glittery! It’s another fun one to say and all the best things are kirakira, like sparkly pretty girl anime eyes!
2. Pyonpyon ?????? / ??????
Close but not completely there; my almost favourite is pyon pyon! Pyonpyon is the adorable sounding onomatopoeia to describe light hopping and jumping. It’s just so cute to say while imagining a little bunny hopping about. Pikachu too, just look at the little guy go!
1. Raburabu ???? / ????
At the end of this tough choice, I have chosen my favourite onomatopoeia to be RABURABU. It’s just a terrifically ridiculous onomatopoeia to describe someone who is head over heels in love. It of course comes from the Japanese pronunciation of love love and I just love love that they made it into an onomatopoeia!
In all honesty it was very hard to narrow down 10 onomatopoeia to be my favourites and even harder to rank them from 1-10. For me, these have got to be some of the best onomatopoeia I have currently come across. I’m completely on board with learning more though and possibly changing this top 10! Does anyone know of any great ones that might just do it?