Onomatopoeia Deck (Official release) April-08-2024

Hi all!

As you may have guessed by this title, this is an announcement post about the onomatopoeia deck that we have just released here on Bunpro. :partying_face: You can find the deck under the Non-JLPT category in our deck library. Click here to visit the deck page directly.

An onomatopoeia deck has been a long-standing request that we have had from users, and we feel that we finally have a big enough library of vocabulary that we could offer something that was quite comprehensive.

Okay, let’s get stuck into the meat of this post. :meat_on_bone:

:boom: Making an Onomatopoeia Deck :boom:

As many of you would already know, onomatopoeia is one of the hardest areas of Japanese to study. This is primarly due to the vast range of combinations that really only differ in very small ways. However, native Japanese speakers usually don’t have any difficulty at all with these words, despite their vast numbers and similarities. The reason for this is something that is often overloooked when studying Japanese, but can be extremely helpful. This feature is called sound significance.

Sound significance?

Sound significance is exactly as the name states. The significance or ‘meaning’ of any sound. In Japanese, all sounds have a meaning. A very brief guide on the subject can be found here on Tofugu.

As a TLDR, here is an example. Which one of these sounds is more open, か or き? … か, right? How about which one is lower pitched, ち or こ? … that would be こ. This ‘feeling’ that sounds have is sound significance.

For our deck, we have chosen to start by introducing a set of very common onomatopoeia words, as well as some common animal sounds etc, before we dive directly into sound significance. A brief set of words then introduces all the sounds, and what they tend to signify. Sometimes direct translations of onomatopoeia to English can be quite poor, so we recommend using and attempting to memorize the very brief descriptions in the chapter headings to give you a better mental image of what each sound means.

As an example of the limitation of english, let’s pretend that a word is translated as ‘complete’. However, is it complete and solid? complete and brimming to the point of bursting? complete and precise or finely detailed? complete in terms of being all used up? If you learn the sound meanings, which type of ‘complete’ will become clear.

:heavy_plus_sign: Additional Onomatopoeia :heavy_plus_sign:

There is an almost ridiculous amount of onomatopoeia in Japanese. In our deck, we have included over 800, but we will continue to update the deck with any categories of words that we are currently missing, or with more examples of words that fit in already existing groups.

:books: Example Sentences :books:

With onomatopoeia moreso than other types of words, it is absolutely essential to see many examples of how they are used to be able to truly understand what the underlying meanings or the ‘feelings’ of the words are when compared to similar words. That is why we have put the creation of example sentences for all entries in our onomatopoeia deck at top priority.

While many of the entries already have example sentences written by native speakers, we are going to endeavor to have a full set of example sentences for all entries within the deck within 2 weeks. This will be taking priority over our usual vocab sentence creation order, as we feel that the difficulty of the topic as a whole to students warrants it.

Enjoy! :sunglasses:

We hope that our approach to the topic and the creation of this deck will help you all get a solid grasp of onomatopoeia. We may continue to make slight adjustments to chapter titles etc over the coming weeks if we can think of descriptions that are easier to grasp or understand. Once you’ve mastered the topic, you’ll definitely have a lot more fun with Japanese as these funny little words start to really make the language spring to life! :rabbit2:

Thank you all again for encouraging us to create new and engaging material that break down the barriers to learning Japanese one by one. Hope everyone is having a fantastic week! :surfing_woman:


Awesome! Thank you so much!



Thanks so much for making this. It’ll be super helpful. Would it be possible to add this deck to the cram feature too? I think reviewing all the similar sounding words back to back would be really helpful. Also good for reviewing vocab I already “know.”


This is really helpful! Thanks!


great addition but man the amount of onomatopoea in the list is scary!

They have always been one of my strongest weaknesses in Japanese, I hate them and have a mental block every time I see one that doesn’t help

EDIT: see I can’t even type onomatopeia properly :sweat_smile:


わくわく! :grin:


The explanation and then the categorization within sound significance is awesome. I had only seen tiny bits of information alluding to this before, so this is amazing and very helpful to see it presented this way.

Actually, it makes me miss Ashers ‘deep dive’ posts about word etymology or the way various words with the same sound/reading are connected through a unifying concept. As a scientist (with ADHD) these detailed explanations were really helpful in breaking through understanding when I continually struggle with SRS.


There is a fairly good (but short) discussion of this topic in the front section of A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar, if you are interested in further reading.


This is a little bit down the track, but we may end up putting something like very short one sentence descriptions on a lot of the individual onomatopoeia words, so that the meanings and differences become really clear. For example in the ま chapter we have -

Sound significance. ま - Small but packed full.

But then on individual words we could further add.

ニマニマ - Very tighty compacted grin, usually with eyes closed. Compared to ニコニコ which is more broad but relaxed.

This could help to push home the concepts for people. Regardless though, it is an interesting topic, and is something that will need to wait for a rainy day :sweat_smile:


Excellent work!


I don’t want to open a massive can of worms but have you considered adding notes for onomatopoeia that have a different nuance depending on the intonation (pitch accent)? E.g., つるつる.

Onomatopoeia are one of those weird things where if you have an intermediate or higher “language sense” then they basically almost always make perfect sense when hearing or seeing them in context but they’re all extremely hard to produce naturally, without thought, when speaking, barring the most common ones.

Tangential but I once saw a mime act where they acted out a ten minute long love story but only said onomatopoeia (and did mime…). As a Japanese learner it was extremely interesting and made some of the sound symbolism stick a bit more in my head.


There are lots of things we could do with onomatopoeia that can potentially make the learning process easier, it’s just a matter of prioritizing them.

Like for a big family of them, they’re just from kanji, so learning the verb they come from can make them a lot easier to remember, especially when there are patterns within those words too like the めく suffix creating verbs out of きらめく, つやめく, ひらめく, ゆらめく, ときめくetc etc etc. You can kinda go ‘oh, basically all めく verbs are just onomatopoeia that come from some specific kanji meaning’. :man_shrugging: Then you have to decide whether that information is worth teaching, or better left in a thick ‘unlock onomatopoeia’ textbook :sweat_smile:.


If you write it then I’ll read it! But, yeah, definitely more textbook or research paper territory…


The bane of my existence, yay!

Kidding, this is very helpful




This is an incredible idea :clap:
Thank yo for your hard work


Just in time actually :grinning:

Was super confused at the beach scene in FF VII REBIRTH when Aerith said “ひりひりでひゅうひゅうだね” during the beach scene
English translation in-game doesn’t really tell anything close to what she’s trying to convey


This has definitely plagued me for the entirety of my Japanese education, so to see that you guys have made a deck for it is a major relief


Thank you for this deck! Awesome :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


I didn’t even know that things like きっと and こっそり were onomatopoeia. Another great addition, thank you.

1 Like