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Animal Noises Around the World

3 min read
6 November 2017
woman holding a dog

What sound does a cat make in English? How about Japanese or Italian? Cats sound the same all over the world, don’t they? You may be surprised to find that animal noises change depending on the language being spoken. It’s not that animals are multilingual, but the people who describe them are.

When you're first learning English, it helps to understand some of the subtle nuances of the language. The onomatopoeia we use to describe animal sounds is delightfully different depending on where you are in the world. Take a look.


What is onomatopoeia?

Onomatopoeia is a word that mimics the sound that it describes. So when we say, in English, that a cat meows, we are describing the noise a cat makes in a phonetic way.

The diversity of words we use for animal noises reflects the unique flavor of different languages. These words are shaped just as much by cultural differences as they are by linguistic ones.

Take, for example, the sounds we use to describe dogs in English: woof, bow wow, ruff, yap, growl. English-speaking countries have the highest dog ownership per household, and the range of different types of dogs expands from small yappy pups, like Chihuahuas, to big booming dogs like German Shepherds. Of course, we need a variety of words to appropriately reflect this.


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What do animals sound like around the world?

Exploring animal onomatopoeia in 6 different languages



Meow (English)

Miaou (French)

Miau (Spanish)

Yaong (Korean)

Nyan (Japanese)

Miyav (Turkish)



Woof (English)

Ouaf (French)

Guau-guau (Spanish)

Meong (Korean)

Wan (Japanese)

Hev (Turkish)



Moo (English)

Meuh (French)

Mu (Spanish)

Eum-mae (Korean)

Mō mō (Japanese)

Mö (Turkish)



Cock-a-doodle-doo (English)

Cocorico (French)

Quiquiriquí (Spanish)

Ko-ke-kok-ko-o (Japanese)

Kkokkodek kko (Korean)

ü-ürü-ü (Turkish)



Oink (English)

Groin groin (French)

Oinc oinc (Spanish)

Kkul kkul (Korean)

Boo boo (Japanese)


So how do you describe animal noises in your native language? Does a cat meow or nyan? What about roosters – do they cock-a-doodle-doo or ­quiquiriquí? Share your native animal sounds with us on our Facebook channel or in the comment section.


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