Isn’t this just the coolest word ever? Onomatopoeia! Ever since I first heard this it’s been one of my favorite words. So, what does it mean? It simply means a “sound word” that is a word where the sound mimics the actual sound. Confused? We have many examples in English. Examples can be when we mimic the sound of a barking dog with “bow wow”, or when we tell a child that the train goes “choo choo”. These are onomatopoeias or onomatopoeic words as they are also often called. In Korean these words are very frequent, and while they used to frustrate me I actually now enjoy finding them in Korean books, as I really feel that these words make the text much more lively. Today I re-read the old Korean folktale 흥부와 놀부. I never realized how many of these sound words were actually in this story until now. Here are a few examples:

썩 – quickly/immediately –  나가지 못할까 – Get out of here right this minute

뚝 – with a thud – 땅에 떨어지다 – To drop with a thud to the ground

쩍 – cracking sound – 벼락이 떨어져서 나무가 갈라졌다 – The lightning split a tree

벌벌 – trembling sound – 벌벌 떨다 – To shiver

무럭무럭 – rapidly – 나무가 무럭무럭 자란다 – The tree is growing rapidly

In Korean these words are called 의성어. Do you have a favorite Korean onomatopoeia? Please share in the comments.


  1. How about mimetic words(의태어) which imitates the physical movements, actions or attributes.
    For example, 구름이 ‘ 뭉게뭉게 ‘ 피어 오르고 있다. The cloud is forming ‘ in the form of several rounded cotton ‘. And as most of U may know, 새 차가 ‘반짝반짝’ 빛난다. The new car is shining ‘brightly’. Sometimes the line between onomatopoeic words and mimetic words seems to be vague.
    But, in my opinion it doesn’t matter.


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