This is a list of the Japanese onomatope (onomatopoeia) that I incorporated into my 2020 Running Highku. Japanese language has countless ideophones—phonomimes (giseigo 擬声語), phenomimes (gitaigo 擬態語), psychomimes (gijōgo 擬情語), etc.—all of which infuse speech with sounds, emotions, and other qualities.
©︎ M.W. Shores, 2020.
akkerakan あっけらかん conveys sense of absent-mindedness or dumbfoundedness when confronted with strange circumstances; when things/people are not where they should be, deserted; something that imbues a sense of emptiness, little stimulation; feeling no care, hesitation, or embarrassment, though one should
aya-fuya あやふや when things cannot be made certain; when things are ambiguous and a decision cannot be made
banbarako ばんばらこ conveys a state of disorder; things that are slapdashedly strewn about
barin ばりん the sound of something hard breaking or tearing with great force; a lighter variant is parin
bashan ばしゃん the sound of hitting water’s surface with great force; also used for the sound of glass falling over/shattering; similar to pashan
bata-bata ばたばた the sound things striking in succession; the sound (footsteps, etc.) of someone swiftly walking; the loud sound of wings flapping or somebody fanning; things falling in succession; carrying things out in hurriedly or in a fluster; used to describe the quick, dramatic entrance of kabuki characters; nickname for three- and two-wheel motorbikes
beron べろん expresses licking vigorously, or using one’s hand to gently wipe one’s face; something falling or sagging down to an uncomfortable degree, or something flying out with force; a lighter variant in peron.
buku-buku ぶくぶく the sound or state of bubbles forming with vigor one after the next; the sound or state of being plunged under water then rising to the surface; the sound of swishing liquid in one’s mouth, or liquid being swished about in general; also refers to something/someone pleasantly plump, and a voice that is difficult to hear (also butsu-butsu in the last case)
bun-bun ぶんぶん the sound of humming, whirring, or high-pitched buzzing
bun-cha-cha ぶんちゃちゃ triple time waltz; the sound of 3/4 time; also zun-cha-cha and zun-tatta
bu-ru-ru ぶるる the sound of a horse exhaling a deep fluttering breath through its nostrils; also the sound one makes when they are cold (brrr)
buu ぶー a thick, deep sound, such as a steam whistle or flatulence; the sound of a buzzer when one answers a question incorrectly; one’s voice when one expresses discontent (i.e., booing)
buun ぶーん the sound of a small insect’s wings buzzing; a deep, small sound resonating; the sound of something zooming through the air,
chapu-chapu ちゃぷちゃぷ the sound of something being immerse in liquid; splish-splashing sound, such as feet stomping in puddles
charari ちゃらり also charari-charari, the high-pitched sound of small, thin pieces of metal bumping or rubbing together
chii-chii ちーちー The call of small birds (e.g., sparrow: chii-chii pappa, warbling white-eye [mejiro]: chu-chii-chii-chii), or cry of insects; also the high-pitched sound of hot water coming to a boil; also conveys a trait of stinginess, niggardliness (kechi-kechi)
chin ちん the high-pitched sound of somthing hard, such as metal, striking together once; also the sound of a bell or chime, like that of a microwave
chubi-chubi ちゅびちゅび one of several swallow calls; others include cho-chobi-chobi, pi-ri-ri, chupi-chupi, and jiijjiijii’
daku-boku だくぼく used for paths and other surfaces that are not flat and smooth but uneven or rugged/ragged; also deko-boko or dakkuri-bokkuri
doba-doba どばどば something, particualrly liquid, expelled continuously in large quantities and with considerable force
dosha-dosha どしゃどしゃ The sound of rain pouring heavily, fiercly.
etchira-otchira えっちらおっちら represents walking with some difficulty, or (at last) walking after some time, e.g., when carrying something heavy, or when tired; also used for the way one might walk in old age
enyara-enyara えんやらえんやら the feeling or state when something heavy is at last moved after a good deal of physical exertion
fuka-fuka ふかふか the quality of being soft and fluffy, puffy; the state of floating or drifting; without discretion or care; abundant, affluent
fukura-fukura ふくらふくら conveys a charmingly swollen or plump build (body), eyes, etc.
gabu-gabu がぶがぶ the sound of drinking something eagerly, as though devouring it
gachi-gachi がちがち the sound of something hard striking together repeatedly; also represents shivering when cold, or something/someone terribly stiff or rigid
gaji-gaji がじがじ the sound or act of vigorously chomping down on or chewing something; being continuously vexed or in pain; shivering as if chilled to the bone
gakin がきん a metallic, high-pitched, bright, clear sound
gara-gara がらがら the heavy reverberating sound when something crumbles apart, or when hard things bump against each other; the sound of someone speaking or laughing loudly without inhibition, or simply being overt or crude; the sound of a sliding door opening or closing; the sound of gargling or regurgitating; something being so dry/parched that it could make a sound; a voice that is hoarse or dull; utterly empty; a gaunt, skinny body; a baby rattle
gasa-gasa がさがさ the sound of something thin and dry rustling together; something parched and ragged; ruffled and ill at ease; having little substance
gatan がたん the sound of something heavy falling and hitting the ground or something hard below
geppu げっぷ the sound of air being expelled from the stomach through the mouth (i.e., belch).
goro-goro ごろごろ the sound of thunder, a stomach rumbling, or a cat purring; also the sound/scene of something heavy rolling; lazily lying about, not working; also expresses the presence of a foreign substance, such as grit in one’s eye
gureri ぐれり expressing something that undergoes a sudden change, for example the sky/clouds; also garari
gutsu-gutsu ぐつぐつ the sound of somthing simmering over high heat
guu-guu ぐーぐー the sound of a loud snore; also the sound of a rumbling stomach; also used for positive energy and feelings
guzu-guzu ぐずぐず expresses a hesitant attitude, behavior, or action; unintelligibly muttering complaints or grievances; the sound of food simmering heartily (also gutsu-gutsu); something with little firmness, ready to fall apart at any moment; having no definite conclusion or distinction; in Okinawa this refers to drinking with vigor (similar to gabu-gabu).
gyutto ぎゅっと or simply gyu‘, the act of compressing, embracing, or squeezing something with considerable strength
hihiin ひひーん The sound of a horse whinnying
hoi-hoi ほいほい taking others’ actions in stride, responding to them lightly, being light-hearted; indulging others, so their feelings are not hurt and things go smoothly;
hono-bono ほのぼの the state when night begins to turn to dawn; when there is but a faint light in the darkness and it remains difficult to make things out with the naked eye; the feeling of a gentle warmth; the feeling one receives from cheerful heart and genuine kindness; faintly or barely seeing, hearing, knowing something
hyuu ひゅー the sound of wind blowing; can also be used for flutes and steam whistles; stronger wind can be expressed with hyuu-hyuu, byuu-byuu, pyuu-pyuu
inguri-chinguri いんぐりちんぐり something uneven, not well-balanced; weaving, meandering, winding
ita-ta いたた this is a variation of the adjective itai (painful); this is often drawn out, ita-ta-ta-ta or ite-te-te-te
jaran じゃらん the sound of something hard like metal striking against each other and momentarily making a loud noise
jiwa-jiwa じわじわ when something is carried out or progresses slowly over a period of time; when cold gradually pierces the body; when sweat, tears, etc., little by little come out; when something slightly bends and wobbles; the buzz or commotion heard in theater audiences, etc.
ka-ririn かりりん this is a combination of two words, kari’ かりっ and ririn; the former is the sound of biting down or into something, the latter is the sound of metal objects hitting or rubbing against each other, like a bell; ka-rinrin could be the sound of a fishing reel (i.e., flipping the bail [spinning reel] or re-engaging the pickup pin [spincast reel] then cranking the handle to spin the spool and draw in the line)
kerori けろり used to convey something with an unfixed nature, like a sky that has gone from cloudy to clear; also used to express indifference, and situations that have undergone change
kii-kii きーきー the sound of a high-pitched, shrill voice, like that of a bat or sandpiper; also used for other high-pitched sounds, e.g., hard things chafing against each other
kune-kune くねくね swaying to the left and right; can be used in reference to roads and rivers, snakes, cats’ tails, among other things
kusu-kusu くすくす the sound one makes when laughing lightly, under their breath; refers to secretly doing something; saying or doing something passively
majira-majira まじらまじら refers to the act of staring at something/someone without averting the eyes
min-min みんみん the sound that a cicada (semi) makes; this is often used for cicada in general, but it technically refers to the sound of min-min semi; other cicada sounds include gin-gin, ja-ja, jii, jii-jiri-jiri, kana-kana, shaa-shaa, shan-shan, tsuku-tsuku-ooshi, and washi-washi
nade-nade なでなで based on the Japanese verb naderu 撫でる, this refers to the act of gently caressing, petting, stroking
nikkori にっこり also nikori and niko-niko, this expresses a happy smile or broad grin
nonben-gurarin のんべんぐらりん a state in which one passes the time without any goals or purpose; variants of this include nonben, nonben-gurari, nonben-darari, which (unlike nonbiri, yuttari, yukkuri) generally refer to not making good use of one’s time
non-non のんのん refers to a deep river or large body of water gently flowing along; vigorous; thriving
nyaa-nya にゃーにゃ the sound of a cat mewing; also nyan-nyan
odo-odo おどおど expresses of state nervousness or apprehensiveness; unsure about what to; unsure and lacking in confidence
oro-oro おろおろ expresses unsureness about what to do; loss of peace of mind
pachi-pachi ぱちぱち the sound of small, sharp sounds reverberating (such as tapping or clicking); the sound of fire crackling and popping; the sound of clapping; the sound of a camera shutter closing repeatedly; also can refer to eyelashes fluttering, elaborate patterns/markings, and tight-fitting clothing
papparapaa ぱっぱらぱー the bright, high-pitched sound of a trumpet; also represents one who is carefree and doesn’t think deeply on things; also apparapaa あっぱらぱー
pii-poo-pii-poo ぴーぽーぴーぽー the sound of an ambulance’s siren; compare uu-uu
pocha-pocha ぽちゃぽちゃ the sound of water moving about and splashing
poki’ ぽきっ the sound of something thin breaking or popping lightly; boki’ is the sound of something much thicker breaking with a good deal of force
pokkari ぽっかり the quality of one’s eyes or mouth, or a hole being wide open; without a care; a pleasant, warm feeling; floating lightly on the water’s surface or in the sky
pushu’ ぷしゅっ the sound of air or liquid emitting with great force, as when one opens a can of beer, or a tire is punctured
pyon-pyon ぴょんぴょん refers to lightly hopping along, like a rabbit or weasel
pyuun ぴゅーん the sound of air being cut through as something or somebody lightly but quickly flies or runs by
rori-rori ろりろり walking in a state of dismay, alarm, or consternation out of fear for something bad that may come; losing one’s composure (also roi-roi).
run-run るんるん expresses buoyancy, cheer, or exhilaration after an emotional release or disentanglement; happy enough want to hum a tune
saa’ さーっ conveys a motion or action that takes place in a brief moment; variations of this include sa’ さっ and sasa’ ささっ
saba-saba さばさば something that feels pleasantly dry, absent of moisture or oiliness; someone who isn’t picky, or doesn’t have a particular way of doing things; the refreshed feeling after something unpleasant has passed
saku-saku さくさく the sound of stepping on soft earth, sand, snow, frost, etc.; also the sound of repeated cutting, chopping, biting, etc.
san-san さんさん（燦燦 粲粲 璨璨）something vivid and beautiful; brilliantly shining
sappari さっぱり when one feels cheerful and fresh; when appearance, attitude, taste, etc., are cleanly straightforward; when nothing is left over; no fear of future trouble
sarari さらり light sound or quality when things rub or rustle against each other; something that feels velvety and fresh, absent of wetness or stickiness; describes one whose attitude, personality, approach, etc., is soft and light-hearted, not fervent or insistent; taking care of business in one go, without losing track or faltering; leaving nothing left over, satisfyingly clean
shaa し ゃー the sound of liquid flowing down lightly, swiftly.
shan-shan しゃんしゃん the light sound of bells jingling; a sound that cicadas make; the sound of a large crowd clapping; the sound of hot water vigorously boiling; briskly, spiritedly going about one’s work
shito-shito しとしと the sound of rain falling softly
shonbori しょんぼり state of being cheerless, crestfallen, disheartened, forlorn, lonely
shuu-shuu しゅーしゅー the sound of silk or other soft materials rubbing against each other or rustling; the sound of water, steam, air, etc., escaping from a small hole or crack
sowa-sowa そわそわ a state when ones feelings or actions are restless or lack repose; agitated, prepared to flee
soyo-soyo そよそよ the sound or state when a quite wind blows; when a soft wind rustles grass and leaves on trees; water quietly flowing; when thin, light objects brush against each other
su‘ すっ the sound or state when something (like a breath) is instantly drawn in or inhaled; when something is stretched/stretches tight, into a thin, long line; when something happens or changes quickly and quietly; the feeling when perturbed or harbored emotions are assuaged
suu’ すーっ the sound of wind (or one’s breath) softly blowing; this is also used to describe something smooth and straight (like a nose), things quietly changing, and soft, cool, or relaxed, feelings
taka-taka たかたか the sound of light (like a child’s) feet running
to-to-ton とととん the sound of tapping/striking something repeatedly; also the sound of running lightly
tsuya-tsuya つやつや something beautiful for its sheen/luster; something moist and supple; also used for things that are complete/absolute (in both positive and negative contexts); taking in things carefully; falling into a deep sleep
uha-uha うはうは the sound or feeling when one is so happy that one cannot hold back laughter
uiin ういーん the humming, whizzing, droning sounds made by machines in operation
ura-ura うらうら the feeling brought by warming spring sunshine; something swaying gently; when a person’s heart or attitude is calm and composed
uu-uu うーうー the sound of a patrol car or fire engine siren (compare pii-poo-pii-poo); also the sound of an animal growling
uzu-uzu うずうず refers to insects, etc., continuously twitching and wriggling about; pain or dull feeling caused by swelling; wanting so badly to do something that it is maddening; muttering complaints, etc., to oneself
wacha-wacha わちゃわちゃ the sound of two or more people chattering, jabbering, prattling.
waku-waku わくわく expresses happiness or anticipation that makes one’s heart beat faster; restlessness caused by excitement or fear about something to come
yattoko-dokkoi やっとこどっこい expresses an action is done to the maximum limit
yurara ゆらら the sound made when bells or ball-shaped objects touch or clink against each other; when something softly sways; pressure free
yururikan ゆるりかん the state of being comfortable, at ease, relaxed
zoku-zoku ぞくぞく shivering from chills or nervousness; the sound of carving or cutting into something with force
zun-zun ずんずん a heavy, deep sound that reverberates pleasingly; the painful pounding at the site of a wound, etc.; forcefully forging ahead without reservation, entirely concentrated; proceeding with one task after the next, without delay
zuru-zuru ずるずる sloppily drawing something out, slipping gradually; slurping something in an unrefined manner; falling, slipping, or peeling off; slipshod in terms of attitude, appearance, emotion, etc.
zuta-boro ずたぼろ a combination of zuta-zuta ずたずた (in pieces/shreds) and boro-boro ぼろぼろ (tattered, ragged), this expresses the state of something being cut and torn to shreds, something severely damaged
Trot back to Running Highku