59 Spanish Words That Imitate Life in a Onomatopoeic Way

59 Words That Imitate Life

Howling wolf
Picture by Tambako the Jaguar / Getty Images

Onomatoepoeia, also called onomatopeya in Spanish, is the formation or use of words that are imitative or intended to sound like what they represent. A good example of this is the word, "click" in English, which formed as a word as a result of the clicking sound. Its Spanish equivalent is the noun spelled clic, which composes the stem of the verb cliquear, "to click a mouse."

Onomatopoeia is not the same for all languages because native speakers interpret each sound their own way and may form words differently, for example, the onomatopoeic sound for a frog differs greatly across cultures.

The croak of a frog is coa-coa in French, gae-gool-gae-gool in Korean, !berp! in Argentinian Spanish and "ribbit" in the United States.

How to Use Onomatopoeic Words

Sometimes onomatopoeic words are interjections, words that stand alone rather than as part of a standard sentence. Also, interjections can be used when imitating an animal, like a cow's sound, which in Spanish is spelled mu.

Onomatopoeic words can also be used or modified to form other parts of speech, such as the word clic or the Spanish verb, zapear, coming from the word onomatopoeic word zap.

Spanish Onomatopoeic Words

In English, common onomatopoeic words include "bark," "snort," "burp," "hiss," "swish" and "buzz." What follows are several dozen Spanish onomatopoeic words in use. Spelling is not always standardized.

Spanish WordMeaning
achí achoo (the sound of a sneeze)
auuuuhowl of a wolf
bang bang bang-bang (the sound of a gun)
bebleat (as of a ram or similar animal)
berpcroak (as of a frog)
brrrbrr (the sound one makes when cold)
bumboom, explosion, the sound of being struck by someone or something
bzzzbuzz (as of a bee)
chascar, chasquidoto snap, to pop, to crackle 
chillathe scream or screech of various animals such as a fox or rabbit
chinchínthe sound of cymbals
chof splash
clacclick, clack, a very brief sound such as that of a door closing
clic, cliquearmouse click, to click a mouse
clo-clo, coc-co-co-coc, kara-kara-kara-kara clucking sound
cricrí; cric cric cricthe sound of a cricket
croacroak (as of a frog)
cruaaac cruaaaccaw (sound of birds)
cuac cuac quack
cúcu-cúcucuckoo sound
din don, din dan, ding dongding-dong
fugrowl of a lion
ggggrrrr, grgrgrgrowl of a tiger
gluglúgobble-gobble of a turkey
guaubow-wow, dog bark
hipo, hiparhiccup, to hiccup
iii-aahheehaw of a donkey
jajaha-ha (the sound of laughter)
jiiiiiii, iiiioneigh
marramaohowling of a cat
miaumeow of a cat
muac, muak, muasound of a kiss
murmurarleaves rustling in the wind, murmur
ñam ñamyum-yum
oinc , oinkoink
paf sound of something falling or two things striking each other
paothe sound of a spanking (regional use)
pataplumthe sound of an explosion
pío píochirp
plassplash, the sound of something hitting something
poppop (sound)
rataplánthe sound of a drum
silbarto hiss or whistle
siseo, sisearhiss, to hiss
tan tan tanthe sound of a hammer in use
toc toc knock-knock
ufphew, ugh (often a sound of disgust, such as after smelling something awful)
uu uu the sound an owl makes
zashoo (a shout for getting rid of animals)
zapearto zap
zas sound of being struck
zumbar to buzz, to slap (the noun form is zumbido)