Japanese advice n°5 – Sound words

Sound words are a very characteristic feature of speaking Japanese. They’re classified in 擬音語 giongo and 擬態語 gitaigo. Giongo are onomatopoeic words, that is, words that imitate a sound, whereas gitaigo are words that give a sound to something that doesn’t actually make a sound. The difference is hard to explain, but it’s not really important to understand that well. However, you must know the meaning of many of these sound words since they’re used in daily conversation more often than one would expect.

So, here’s a list of some common and useful sound words! Good thing about sound words is that they usually have no kanji, so it’s easy to write them quickly (at least this is a good thing for me).

1. ぺらぺら – Fluent

英語がぺらぺらだね! You’re fluent in English!

2. ぺこぺこ – Hungry

おなかがぺこぺこ。 I’m starving

ぺこぺこ is supposed to be the sound of a growling, hungry stomach. Saying this is actually considered cute.

3. いらいら – Irritated

あんな人と話したら、いらいらする。 I get irritated when I talk to people like him/her.

4. どきどき – Excited

彼女に会うと、どきどきする! I get excited when I see her.

どきどき describes the sound of an accelerated heartbeat.

5. にこにこ – Smiling

I really wonder who came up with a sound for the act of smiling, but it’s just adorable.

6. キラキラ – Shining

It doesn’t sound very useful, but it’s used quite often.

7. べたべた、ぬるぬる、ねばねば - Sticky

30分で散歩してから、汗をかいてべたべたする。 After walking for 30 minutes I got sweaty and sticky.

The humid Japanese summer is a perfect time to put these words into use.

8. どんどん、だんだん – Gradually

どんどん英語になるはずだ。You are supposed to become better at Japanese gradually.

9. わくわく – Happily

Another cute one. Make sure to have some わくわく time while in Japan.

10. おろおろ – Nervous

I say this word quite often and always get some funny reactions. I wonder why.


All in all, there are so many giongo and gitaigo it’s difficult to come up with with a short list. However, try to use this one as an introduction only and then find more on your own.


Eduardo H.