Korean onomatopoeic words are called 의성어. As is with English, there is an abundance of words in Korean to describe different sounds. Here is a list of my favourite and common onomatopoeia!

I think animal sounds are a lot cuter in Korean than English. Although most of them are completely different to the English versions, when you say them out loud they do sound like the actual animals. Compare them yourselves and let me know what you think~
Cat – 야옹~
Dog – 멍멍! (a lot of people, myself included, have never really heard any dog make this sound, but hey, it’s cute)
Duck – 꽥꽥
Cow – 음매~~~~
Sheep – 매애~~~~애애~~
Lion – 어흥!
Pig – 꿀꿀!
Tiger – 으르렁! (
I’m sure most of you have heard Exo’s song, “Growl”)
Mouse – 찍찍
Chicken – 꼬끼오~!
Cicada – 맴맴맴~~
(Never seen or heard a cicada? If you ever go to Korea in the summer, this will be your background noise all… day… long…)

If you haven’t seen it already check out Jay Park’s parody of “The Fox”. See if you hear some of the animal sounds he says at the beginning!

There are loads of sounds to do with eating. For example, 잔! is the sound of clinking glasses together and also an alternative way of saying, “cheers” (건배!). One of my favourite words is 보글보글. This is the sound you get when you boil something and it’s bubbling up. This is so much more easily explained in this video of ramyeon… YUM!

Even when you are eating ramyeon, the sound when you suck up the noodles is 후루룩! There is now a ramyeon named after this! is the sound someone makes after drinking something refreshing, like a cool drink or even a hot soup. (Guys, be careful not to pronounce this as , because this is the sound girls make when screaming!)

There are lots of different sounds for laughter in Korean which are often used when texting. For example, you may notice something like ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ or ㅎㅎ or kkkkk in comments, or when messaging your Korean friends. ㅋㅋ is probably the most commonly used way of writing laughter in Korean, similar to lol. The amount of guages how funny or sarcastic someone is trying to be. Here’s my non-official guide:
ㅋ [ku] – ha (can sound sarcastic or the person just can’t be bothered to add an extra ㅋ)
ㅋㅋ –  lol/ haha
ㅋㅋㅋㅋ – loool / haha
ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ – rofl / lmao / hahahahaha… (something like that)
ㅎ [hu] – variation of ㅋ, perhaps sounds less harsh than ㅋ
ㅎㅎ – huhu
ㅎㅎㅎㅎㅎㅎ – you probably get the jist now?

Talk to me in Korean made a great video explaining different types of laughter in Korean. Check it out!

You may have heard other more descriptive words like 빤짝빤짝, from SNSD’s Gee, which is used to describe something that is shining or sparkling. Also from that song, there is 두근두근, which is the sound of a beating heart and is often used to describe nerves or excitement.
Another of my favourite words is 꾸벅꾸벅 which describes when someone is dozing off and you can see them bobbing their head. But once someone is actually asleep, you can use 쿨쿨, which is the sound of snoring ㅋㅋ

There are so many other words to name, but I hope you enjoyed this short list. Check out Dom&Hyo’s awesome graphic on Korean onomatopoeia for a good summary. Try using some of these terms the next time you speak Korean with a friend. 저는 이제 쿨쿨 할게요~ 안녕! ^^


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