The Funniest Animal Sounds and More in Korean Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia are tons of fun. You can find them in children’s stories, comic books and in everyday conversation. As any parent knows, kids really love them.

You just have to be young at heart to enjoy them.

Korean onomatopoeia (의성어) are even more fun for English speakers. It’s hilarious to compare what a cow sounds like in the USA vs Korea.

Here are a list of Korean onomatopoeia and animals sounds that are sure to brighten up your day.

Funniest Animal Sounds and More in Korean Onomatopoeia

I love comparing onomatopoeia (의성어) because they’re so funny in other languages.

This post also covers object and people sounds along with neat sounds that don’t exist in English.

Let’s check them out!

What is onomatopoeia?

Onomatopoeia (ονοματοποιία) is a super long Greek word that’s a combination of onoma, meaning “name”, and poiein, meaning “to make”. It actually came to English through Latin.

Think of them as words that imitate the sounds they describe.

Onomatopoeia are cultural and differ around the world. It’s only when you start learning another language you realize how cute they are.

Learn the Most Common Korean Words and Phrases

Even though you don’t hear onomatopoeia everyday, they’re a great ice breaker and way to study Korean.

Animal Sounds

Korean animal sounds are my favorite to compare with English. They’re usually so different (except for the pigeon sound). Onomatopoeia shows how much language and culture shape our worldview.

Name (English)SoundName (Korean)Sound
BeeBuzz벌 (beol)윙윙 (wing-wing)
BirdTweet새 (sae)짹짹 (jjeck-jjeck)
CrowCaw까마귀 (kka-ma-gwi)까악까악 (kka-ak-kka-ak)
CatMeow고양이 (go-yang-ee)야옹 (ya-ong)
ChickCheep병아리 (byeong-ah-ri)삐약삐약 (bbi-yak-bbi-yak)
Chicken (Hen)Cluck암탉 (am-tak)꼬꼬댁 (kko-kko-deck)
Chicken (Rooster)Cock-a-doodle-doo수탉 (su-tak)꼬끼오 (kko-kki-oh)
Cicada???매미 (mae-mi)맴맴 (maem-maem)
CowMoo소 (so)음메 (um-meh)
DogWoof개 (gae)멍멍 (meong-meong)
DuckQuack오리 (oh-ri)꽥꽥 (quack-quack)
FrogRibbit개구리 (gae-gu-ri)개굴개굴 (gae-gul-gae-gul)
HorseNeigh말 (mal)히히힝 (hee-hee-hing)
MouseSqueak쥐 (jwi)찍찍 (jjik-jjik)
OwlHoo부엉이 (bu-eong-ee)부엉 부엉 (bu-eong-bu-eong)
PigOink돼지 (dwae-ji)꿀꿀 (kkul-kkul)
PigeonCoo Coo비둘기 (bi-dul-gi)구구 (goo-goo)
RabbitThump토끼 (to-kki)깡총깡총 (kkang-chong-kkang-chong)
SheepBaa양 (yang)메에 (meh-eh)
TigerGrowl호랑이 (ho-rang-ee)어흥 (uh-heung)

So much onomatopoeia, so little time

Did you know there are many animal sounds in English for a dog barking? You probably did, but weren’t thinking about it. You’ve got bow wow, ruff and woof woof. There’s only one dog sound in Korean, meong meong.

There are also a few sounds cat makes. Mew, meow and of course purr. In this case, Korean is easier. There’s only one cat sound, yaong.

And for frog sounds, we’ve got ribbit, ribbet and croak. But in Korean, there’s only gae-gul-gae-gul.

And for birds, we’ve got tweet and chirp. But in Korean, there’s only jjeck-jjeck.

Sometimes, Korean is more concise than English.

Object Sounds

Boiling waterBubble Bubble끓는 물 (ggeul-neun-mul)부글부글 (boo-geul-boo-geul)
보글보글 (bo-geul-bo-geul)
ClockTick Tock시계 (shi-gye)째깍째깍 (jjae-kkak-jjae-kkak)
HonkHonk Honk경적 (gyeong-jeok)빵빵 (bbang-bbang)
PhoneRing ring전화 (jeon-hwa)따르릉 (tta-reu-reung)
DoorbellRing초인종 (cho-in-jong)딩동 (ding-dong)
Bell (small)Jingle Jingle방울소리 (bang-ul-so-ri)딸랑딸랑 (ddal-lang-ddal-lang)
Rain Pitter Patter비 (bee)후두두 (hoo-doo-doo)
주룩주룩 (ju-ruk-ju-ruk)
SizzleSizzle Sizzle지글지글 (ji-geul-ji-geul)지글지글 (ji-geul-ji-geul)
SplashSplash첨벙 (cheom-beong)첨벙 (cheom-beong)
SqueakSqueak삐걱삐걱 (ppi-geok-ppi-geok)삐걱삐걱 (ppi-geok-ppi-geok)
TrainChoo Choo기차 (gi-cha)칙칙폭폭 (chik-chik-pok-pok)
SirenWaaaaaahhhhhhh사이렌 (sa-yi-ren)삐뽀삐뽀 (bbi-bbo-bbi-bbo)
Car/MotorcycleVroom자동차 (ja-dong-cha)/오토바이 (o-to-ba-yi)부릉부릉 (bu-reung-bu-reung)
GunBang총 (chong)빵 (ppang) or 빵야 (ppang-ya)

Why are Korean and English onomatopoeia so different?

Maybe because English and Korean have different vowel sounds as well as cultural backgrounds. The concept of a dog for example is different to Americans and Koreans.

It also might just be because the first person to hear a dog bark in Korea thought it sounded like meong meong. And everyone else ran with it.

Pimsleur is the fastest way to get fluent in Korean. Check out our review of the Pimsleur app here!

People Sounds

This is really where Korean and English start to really show some differences. There are many human actions in Korean that have accompanying onomatopoeia that don’t exist elsewhere.

FootstepTip Tap Tip Tap발소리 (bal-so-ri)뚜벅뚜벅 (ttu-buck-ttu-buck)
ClapClap Clap박수 (bak-su)짝짝 (jjak-jjak)
CryingBoo Hoo우는 소리 (woo-neun-so-ri)엉엉 (eong-eong)
Eating HappilyNom Nom먹는 소리 (meok-neun-so-ri)냠냠냠 (nyam-nyam-nyam)
HeartbeatLub Dub심장 박동 (sim-jang-bak-dong)두근두근 (du-geun-du-geun)
KnockKnock Knock노크 (no-keu)똑똑똑 (ttok-ttok-ttok)
SlipperySlippery미끄러움 (mi-kkeu-reo-um)미끌미끌 (mi-kkeul-mi-kkeul)
MumbleMumble Mumble중얼중얼 (jung-eol-jung-eol)중얼중얼 (jung-eol-jung-eol)
Be quietShhh조용 (jo-yong)쉿 (shwit)
SleepingZzzz자는 소리 (ja-neun-so-ri)쿨쿨 (cool-cool)
SnoringShshsh코고는 소리 (ko-go-neun-so-ri)드르렁드르렁 (deu-reu-reong-deu-reu-reong)
Sleeping Baby???아기가 자는 소리 (a-gi-ga-ja-neun-so-ri)새근새근 (sae-geun-sae-geun)
Brushing Teeth???양치 (yang-chi)치카치카 (chi-ka-chi-ka)
SneezeAchoo재채기 (jae-chae-gi)에취 (eh-chwi)
HurtOuch!다침 (da-chim)아야! (a-ya)
TapTap Tap톡톡 (tok-tok)톡톡 (tok-tok)
Suddenly Appearing/DisappearingPoof갑자기 나타남/사라짐 (gap-ja-gi na-ta-nam/sa-ra-jim)뿅 (ppyong)

Onomatopoeia and children

Teaching a child language is super easy with onomatopoeia. Nothing is more engaging for kids than sounds. Try singing the next time you want to get your child’s attention.

Korean Mimetic Words

Mimetic words (의태어 or uitaeeo) are special. They’re similar to onomatopoeic words but instead of describing sound, they cover different types of movement. You can find these descriptive words all over the place in Korea from billboards, TV drama scripts to Webtoons. They add a lot more depth and imagery to Korean writing.

Suddenly grabbing or biting something덥석 (deop-seok)
Nodding끄떡 (kkeu-duck)
Tilting one’s head갸우뚱 (gya-woo-ttung)
Nimbly/quickly후다닥 (hoo-da-dak)
Frivolous movement촐랑촐랑 (chol-lang-chol-lang)
Peeping기웃기웃 (gi-wut-gi-wut)
Smiling방긋방긋 (bang-geut-bang-geut)
Colorfully울긋불긋 (wul-geut-bul-geut)
Moving up and down들썩들썩 (deul-sseok-deul-sseok)
Twinkling반짝반짝 (ban-jjak-ban-jjak)
Soft말랑말랑 (mal-lang-mal-lang)
Tossing and turning엎치락뒤치락 (eop-chi-rak-dwi-chi-rak)
Turning purple with rage붉으락푸르락 (bul-geu-rak-pu-reu-rak)
Being in a Hurry헐레벌떡 (heol-le-beol-tteok)
Blazing sunshine쨍쨍 (jjeng-jjeng)
Breeze솔솔 (sol-sol)
살랑살랑 (sal-lang-sal-lang)

Learning Korean

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Now it’s your turn

I want to hear from you.

Let us know which Korean onomatopoeia are your favorite!

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4 thoughts on “The Funniest Animal Sounds and More in Korean Onomatopoeia”

  1. Hello Minjung-nim,

    As an expat who got here just shy of three months, I’m delighted to read the articles on your website, and I can’t believe it is 3:00 am in the morning and I am still reading them with delight! This is a great website, and I wish I knew about your site before leaving the States. Again, thank you for the wonderful information, and it is truly enjoyable reading them!

    • Hello Raymond-nim,

      Thank you so much! I appreciate it and so glad you like the blog.^^
      Let us know some topics you’re interested in and hope you enjoy your time in Korea.


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