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Onomatopoeic Words in the Thai Language

Onomatopoeic Thai words

Written Sound: Onomatopoeic words in Thai…

Learning about onomatopoeic words in the Thai language has been quite the experience. It all started when ‏@babla tweeted a link to the video Bow Wow Meow – Animal Sounds in Different Languages. After quickly responding, “in Thai a dog says hong hong”, off I went googling to find out more.

The first jewel of a resource I came across was wikipedia’s post, Cross-linguistic Onomatopoeias. Onomatopoeia. A mouthful, yes?

askdefine.com: onomatopoeia: Onomatopoeia (occasionally spelled onomateopoeia or onomatopœia, from Greek ονοματοποιία) is a word or a grouping of words that imitates the sound it is describing, suggesting its source object, such as “click,” “bunk”, “clang,” “buzz,” or animal noises such as “oink”, “slurp”, or “meow”.

ASAP I called up Khun Phairo and said, “have I got a day planned for you!” Heh. Before KP arrived I sourced other Thai onomatopoeic words, dropping them into a tidy spreadsheet (as organised people tend to do).

The bulk of the words are from wikipedia (Cross-linguistic Onomatopoeias), Weirdvibrations.com (The Language of Sound in Thai), learningthai.com/reading/animal-sounds (Animal Sounds – offline for now ), Thai-language.com (Onomatopoeia), and a pdf download from Chula Uni (The Symbolization of Sounds in Thai onomatopoeic Words).

After culling and editing entries, we spent hours coming up with other Thai onomatopoeic words. And to make this a truly rounded experience, I recorded KP speaking each and every one.

Thai onomatopoeic words plus audio…

The audio files are all-in-one because it’s easier to listen to an unbroken list of dtúks, klùks, hèungs, and bréun bréuns (saves you having to click click click).


approval, joy: เฮ /hay/
auto rickshaw (named after sound): ตุ๊ก ๆ /dtúk dtúk/
baby crying: อุแว้ ๆ /u-wáe u-wáe/, แง้ ๆ /ngáe ngáe/
ball rolling: ขลุก ๆ /klùk klùk/
balloon or bubble bursting: โป๊ะ /bpó/, ปั้ง /bpâng/
Banded Bullfrog singing: อึ่งอาง ๆ /èung-aang èung-aang/
bee or mosquito buzzing, a whirring sound: หึ่ง /hèung/
bird singing: จิ๊บ ๆๆ /jíp jíp jíp jíp jíp/
“boom”, explosion, cannon firing: ตูม /dtoom/
breaking plate: เพล้ง /pláyng/
burping: เอิ่ก /èrk/
camera shutter: แชะ /cháe/
car engine revving: บรื๊น ๆ /bréun bréun/
car horn honking: ปี๊น ๆ /bpéen bpéen/
car putting on brakes: เอี๊ยด /íat/
cat hissing: ฟู่ ๆ /fôo fôo/
cat meowing: เมี้ยว ๆ /míeow míeow/
chatter: จ๊อกแจ๊ก /jòk-jáek/
chewing: แจ๊บ ๆ /jáep jáep/
chicken clucking: เอ้กอี๊เอ้กเอ้ก /âyk-ée ây gà-âyk/
chicken clucking: กุ๊ก ๆ ก๊อก ๆ /gúk gúk gók gók/
Ching Chap Tour (named after sound): ฉิง่ฉับ /cheng-chàp/
clock ticking: ติ๊กต็อก ๆ /dtík-dtòk dtík-dtòk/
clunking: ต๊อกแต๊ก /dòk-dtáek/
collision: กึก /gèuk/
collision, “crash!”, “bang!”, something heavy falling: โครม /krohm/, ปัง /bpang/
Common Koel (named after sound): กาเหว่า /gaawâow gaawâow/
console, comfort someone: โอ๋ /ŏh/
coughing: แค๊ก ๆ /káek káek/
cow mooing: มอ /mor/
cracking (fire): เปรี๊ยะ /bpría/
crow cawing, crow (named after sound – อีกา): กา ๆๆ /gaa gaa gaa/
crowd expressing joy (usually preceded by สรวลเส): เฮฮา ๆ /hay-haa hay-haa/
crying: แง ๆๆ /ngae ngae ngae/, ว้าก /wáak/, โฮ /hoh/
crying, groaning, grieving: ฮือ ๆ /heu heu/
cutting a tree branch: ฉับ ๆ /chàp chàp/
cymbal (named after sound): ฉ ฉิ่ง /chor-ching/
dog barking, howling: โฮ่ง ๆ /hôhng hôhng/, บ๊อก ๆ /bòk bòk/
door bell ringing: ติ๊งต็อง /dtíng-dtong/
door or floor creaking: แอ๊ด /áet/
dove cooing: จุ๊กกรู้ ๆ /júg-króo júg-króo/
dragging something: ครืด /krêut/
dripping water: ติ๋ง ๆ /dtĭng dtĭng/
drum, 7pm – 11pm (named after the drum): ทุ่ม /tûm/
duck quacking: ก้าบ ๆ /gâap gâap/
eating spicy food: ซี้ด ๆ /séet séet/
receiving electric shock: ฟรึ้บ /fréup/
elephant trumpeting: แปร๋น ๆ /bpraen bpraen/
elephant trumpeting: แป๊น ๆ /bpáen bpáen/
exclamation: เอ๊ะ /eh/
explosion, “bang!”: บึ้ม /bêum/
farting: ปู้ด /bpôot/
fighting, wrestling, stomping, be noisy: ตึงตัง /dteung dtang/
food being eaten: ง่ำ ๆ /ngâm ngâm/, อัม ๆ /am am/
footsteps: ตึง ๆ /dteung dteung/, ตึบ ๆ /dtèup dtèup/
frog croaking: อ๊บ ๆๆ /op op op op/
frog (named after the sound): กบ /gòp/
furniture being moved: กึงกัง ๆๆ /geung gang geung gang geung gang/
gaffawing: ฮ่าฮ่าฮ่า /hâa hâa hâa hâa/
gargling: ขรุก กลั้วปาก /kà-rùk glûa-bpàak/
gibbon crying: ผัว ๆ /pŭa pŭa/
gorilla chattering: เจี๊ยกคร่อก ๆ /jaik-kròk jaik-kròk/
grinding teeth: กรอด /gròt/
growling, “grrrrr”: กรรรร /grrrr/, แฮ่ /hâe/
grumbling, muttering: พึมพำ ๆ /peum-pam peum-pam/
gunshot: ปัง ๆ /bpang bpang/
hammering: โป๊ก ๆ /bpóhk bpóhk/
hawking (to spit): ขาก /kàak/
heart beating: ตุ้บ ๆ /dtûp dtûp/, ตึ้ก ๆ /dtêuk dtêuk/
“heh”: เฮอะ ๆ /haya haya/
“hooray!”, “cheers!”, “hip hip hooray!”: ไชโย /chai-yoh/
horse trotting, dog walking: กุบกับ ๆ /gùp-gàp gùp-gàp/, ก๊อน ๆ /gón gón/
horse whinnying: ฮี้ ๆ /hée hée/
house lizard (named after the sound): จิ้งจก /jîng-jòk/
hushing: จุ๊ ๆๆ /jú jú jú/, ชู่ /chôo/
injured dog whimpering: เอ๋ง /ăyng/
jingling, rattling, bell tinkling: กรุ๊งกริ๊ง /grung-kríng/
keyboard striking: ก้อกแก้ก /gòk-gâek/
kissing: จุ๊บ /júp/, จ๊วบ /júap/
knocking: ก๊อก ๆ /gók gók/
laughing: เอิก๊ อ๊าก /ak áak/
laughing softly: คิก้ ๆๆ /kek kek kek kek kek/
laughter (555 ): ฮ่า ๆๆ /hâa hâa hâa hâa/
lion, tiger roaring: โฮก ๆ /hôhk hôhk/
liquid being drunk:เอื้อก /uaòk/
monkey chatting: เจี๊ยก ๆ /jaik jaik/
owl hooting: ฮูก /hôok/
Pakcha (named after the sound “chàa”): ผัดฉ่า /pàt-chàa/
Papaya salad (named after sound): ป๊อก ๆๆ /bpòk bpòk bpòk bpòk/
pig grunting: อู๊ด ๆๆ /óot óot óot óot óot/, ครอก ๆๆ /krôk krôk krôk/
pushy, uncouth, rash, imprudent: บุ่มบ่าม /bùm-bàam/
rain flowing: ซู่ /sôo/
rain on roof, clapping: กราว /graao/
rat squeaking: จี๊ด ๆ /jéet jéet/
ringing bell: เหง่งหง่าง ๆ /ngeng-ngaang ngeng-ngaang/
ripping clothes: ควาก /kwâak/, แควก /kae wók/
rock thrown into a pond: จุ๋ม /jŭm/, ป๋อม /bpŏm/
screaming, shrieking: โอ๊ย /ói/, อ๊าก /áak/, อ๊าย /áai/
sensations of cold, “brr!”: บรื๋อ /bà-rĕu/
sheep or goat bleating: แบะ ๆๆ /bàe bàe bàe bàe/
shrieking: วิ้ดว้าด /wít-wáat/, กรีด /grèet/
sighing: เฮ่อ /hâa/
siren wailing: ปี๊ป่อ ๆ /bpée-bpòr bpée-bpòr/, วี้หว่อ ๆ /wée-wòr wée-wòr/
slap or a whipping: ผัวะ /pùa/
slapping face: เพี้ยะ /phia/, ฉาด /chàat/
small drum (named after sound): ป๋องแป๋ง ๆ /bpŏng-bpăeng bpŏng-bpăeng/
snake hissing: ฟ่อ ๆ /fôr fôr/
sneezing: ฮัดเช่ย /hát-chôie/, ฮัดชิ่ว /hát-chîw/
snoring: ครอกฟี้ /krôk-fée/, ครอก ๆ /krôk krôk/
soft things falling: เผละ /plè/
something hitting floor: กึง /geung/
something hollow being hit: โกรง ๆ /grohng grohng/
speaking softly: กระจุ๋งกระจิ๋ง /grà-jŭng grà-jĭng/
squeaking, stairs creaking: เอียดอาด ๆๆ /ìat-àat ìat-àat ìat-àat/
stalling for time (when talking): เอ้อ /êr/, อ้า /âa/
stomach growling: โครกคราก /krôhk-krâak krôhk-krâak/
stone falling into the water, “plop”: ต๋อม /dtom/
stutter: กระอ้อม /grà-ôm/
telephone ringing: กริ๊ง ๆ /gríng gríng/
throat swallowing: อึก ๆ /èuk èuk/
“thud”: ปึ่ก /bpèuk/
thunder, explosion: เปรี้ยงปร้าง /bprîang-bprâang/
thunder, thud, collision, gun fire: เปรี้ยง ๆๆ /bprîang bprîang bprîang/, ครึ้น ๆ /kréun kréun/
toilet flushing: ชักโครก /chák-krôhk/
Tokay (named after sound): ตุ๊กแก /dtúk-gae/
train whistle, whistling: ปู๊น ๆ /bpóon bpóon/
warning (used after หนอย): แน่ะ /nâe/
waves flowing: ฟิ้ว ๆ /fíw fíw/
whistling: หวูด /wòot/
wind blowing: วิ้ว ๆ /wíw wíw/
woman screaming in surprise: กรี๊ด /gréet/
yawning: ฮ่าว /hâao/
“yuk”: แหวะ /wàe/, ยี้ /yée/

Even more onomatopoeic Thai words…

After we recoded the list, I asked on Facebook and twitter if anyone knew of even more onomatopoeic Thai words.

Did you know that ทวิตเตอร์ /tá-wíd dtêr/ (twitter) and ทวีต /tá-wít/ (tweet) could also be English onomatopoeic loan-words?

On Facebook, Adissapong Praphantanathorn mentioned an oldie, ป๋องแป๋ง /bpong-pang/. A gem, it’s the sound made when old men came to dye your clothes.

Also on FB, Alex Szécsényi asked me to check out buzz, ha-ha, honk, vroom vroom, bang, click, beep, and zip. Of the ones I don’t have (click, vroom, beep, and zip) I did manage to find zip, ซิป /síp/. Zip lead me to ซิบ /síp/ (drip, ooze, trickle) and ซิบ ๆ /síp síp/ (drizzly).

Nils Bastedo shared the very descriptive อึ /èu/ (to defecate). And I’ll have to agree with Nils that the sound is spot on!

I did ask about bling (ปิ๊ง /bpíng/) but I’m not quite sure if it’s onomatopoeic or not. Or if I even found the correct Thai word.

It wasn’t until I searched through my photos to create the banner for this post that I found another onomatopoeic word, ฟลิปฟลอป /flíp-flôp/. It’s an English onomatopoeic loan-word but it still counts.

Switching my search to loan-words, in Kaewmala’s Thinglish Slang: English Loanwords in Thai I snabbed ติงต๊อง /dting-dtóng/ (crazy, not very bright) and ปิงปอง /bping-bpong/ (ping pong).

And when I asked on twitter, Sylvie von Duuglas (@_ittu) introduced onomatopoeic English verbs ซูม /soom/ (zoom), and สแนป /sa-nap/ (snap).

Not to be left out, Thai-language.com’s list of English loan-words to Thai coughed up สเปรย์ /sà-bpray/ (spray).

Not finished yet, I found a healthy list of English onomatopoeic words at Written Sounds. It does make me wonder just how many more English onomatopoeic words [slash] loan-words there are in Thai.

Onomatopoeic extras…

Here are the recordings for the additional Onomatopoeic Thai words added to the end of the article. Adissapong, Alex and Nils, thank you!

twitter: ทวีต /tá-wêet/
when old men come to dye your clothes: ป๋องแป๋ง
zip: ซิป /síp/
sip: ซิบ /síp/ (drip, ooze, trickle)
drizzly: ซิบ ๆ /síp síp/
to defecate: อึ /èu/
flipflop: ฟลิปฟลอป /flíp-flôp/
crazy, not very bright: ติงต๊อง /dting-dtóng/
ping pong: ปิงปอง /bping-bpong/
zoom: ซูม /soom/
snap: สแนป /sa-nap/
spray: สเปรย์ /sà-bpray/


And here are the Onomatopoeic Thai words suggested in the comments. My thanks goes to Jørgen Nilsen, Gaelee, Rick Bradford, Tod Daniels and Kris Willems.

whining from children: งอแง /ngor ngae/
infant talking/making sounds: อ้อแอ้ /ôr âe/
worm moving: กระดึบกระดึบ /grà-dèup grà-dèup/
children starting to walk: เตาะแตะ /dtòr-dtàe/
to describe an explosion: บื้ม /bêum/
colloquial for urinate as in ‘ปวดฉี่’ /bpùat-chèe/ and is also the sound of frying something in oil: ฉี่ /chèe/ (goes with อึ /èu/)
“exercising” in the bed: ตับๆ /dtàp dtàp/
one that is very often used: อ้วก /ûak/
sound of a whistle: ปี๊ด /bpéet/
sound of kissing: ฟอด /fôt/
a loud whistle: หวีด /wèet/
threatening sound: เหม่ /mày/
crackling sound: กรอบแกรบ /gròp-gràep/


Did you hear the frog in the background? It must have been raining in Bangkok last night.

Two more Onomatopoeic words added from the FCLT Facebook group (Steve Stubs and Peter Krause):

bark: เห่า /ow/
vomit: อ้วก /ûak/
knock: เคาะๆ /kór kór/

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My passion is promoting the Thai language. Fullstop. Oh, and traveling. I'm passionate about that as well. And photography too.

27 Comments

  1. Wow, what a fantastic list. Thanks for taking the time to compile this!

    I see that you have the sound a cat makes (เมี้ยว – míeow) on the list, but does the cat’s name (แมว – maew) count as onomatopoeic too?

  2. Ditto for goat (แพะ páe) and owl (นกฮูก nók hôok)?

    Luckily the cow says มอ and not หมู. That would be confusing. :)

  3. Hi Stuart. It was hilarious putting together this list :-) Seems the different spellings for cat and owl would fall under onomatopoeic, and ditto for goat with แพะ/แบะ.

  4. You’ve outdone yourself, as usual Cat! ^ ^ My favorite words are always the one that feel great to say. Thai words are no exception. Bravo!

  5. Thanks Lani. It was a spur of the moment post and now I’m wondering why I didn’t cover this subject earlier!

  6. Not sure if these are onomatopoeic, but what about:
    งอแง whining from children – similar to the one you already had on your list
    อ้อแอ้ infant talking/making sounds
    กระดึบกระดึบ worm moving
    เตาะแตะ children starting to walk

  7. Jørgen, they certainly seem onomatopoeic. Thanks! I’ll ask around.

  8. Spur of the moment????? That makes me think of something that can be done quickly. A huge amount of effort went into this, and time no doubt. And what fun for us!

    หวูด for whistling reminds me of a word (English) a friend made up for whistling: hwit hwooooo (rhymes with boo!)

    I’ll be having fun with this for a while. I’ve only gotten through the c’s so far.

  9. Gaelee, you are correct – a large amount of work went into this post. But, it was indeed done quickly because other projects were put aside to get this one finished on time. After I researched we marked out a full day and did nothing but laugh and play with different words.

    “I’ll be having fun with this for a while” – Excellent! I’ll be waiting for new additions as there are sure to be more :-)

  10. The Thai newspapers also use the word บื้ม to describe an explosion.

  11. บื้ม – good one Rick. I’ll add the new ones into the post above (with sound) after awhile.

  12. Great list.. Some of the thai words don’t display the superscript over the consonants correctly (but it could be my pc).

    ฉี่ is another one (and goes with อึ). It is colloquial for urinate as in ‘ปวดฉี่’ and is also the sound of frying something in oil.

  13. ตับๆ – “exercising” in the bed

  14. (See above) – interchangeably spelt บึ้ม

  15. One that is very often used: อ้วก

  16. sound of a whistle : ปี๊ด

  17. sound of kissing: ฟอด

  18. A loud whistle : หวีด

  19. threatening sound: เหม่

  20. crackling sound: กรอบแกรบ

  21. Thanks everyone – these are great!

  22. Time sure goes by fast … I’ll get these recorded and coded into the post … thanks all!

    งอแง whining from children – similar to the one you already had on your list
    อ้อแอ้ infant talking/making sounds
    กระดึบกระดึบ worm moving
    เตาะแตะ children starting to walk
    บื้ม, บึ้ม to describe an explosion
    ฉี่ (goes with อึ) colloquial for urinate as in ‘ปวดฉี่’ and is also the sound of frying something in oil.
    ตับๆ “exercising” in the bed
    อ้วก one that is very often used
    ปี๊ด sound of a whistle
    ฟอด sound of kissing
    หวีด a loud whistle
    เหม่ threatening sound
    กรอบแกรบ crackling sound

  23. The new audio files are live (complete with frogs in the background). Again, thanks!

    We are making our way through posts at WLT adding audio, and I’m now wondering how Khun Phairoa will do with a couple of Hugh’s posts – “a sticky problem” and “Thai sex words”. She’s a great sport and loves to have fun so I’m interested in seeing if she can refrain from giggling.

  24. Stuart, I forgot to add yours! They must have been above the fold but I’ll get to them when I add more, ok? Apologies.

  25. I love listening to this woman just going through all the sounds one after the other. Can really hear where some of them come from.

  26. From FCLT: The แช็ก in ไฟแช็ก is from the sound lighters make.

  27. I always thought that ทิ้ง sounded like something metal being thrown into a rubbish bin. That’s how I remember it anyway :)

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