An Onomatopoeia (une onomatopée) is a made up written word which represents a sound. She slapped him: “smack”!! The baby cried: “wah-wah”. This comes naturally in our own language, but it’s quite hilarious to see what these sound words become in another language! Here are my favorite top 10 French onomatopoeia.
1 – The Written Sound of a Kiss in French = Smack!
Yeah, “Smack” is the sound of a soft kiss in French. We don’t go “kiss kiss”, but “smack, smack”. It’s even the common name for a peck on the lips. “Il m’a fait un smack” – he gave me a peck on the lips, a soft kiss. (More about French kisses in this article)
Imagine my surprise when I found out “smack” was the written sound for slapping in English! Quite the opposite…
In French, a slap (une gifle, une baffe) is accompanied by a big: “paf !” (we say “et paf, une baffe !). Other French sounds for hitting would be “vlan”, “pif” (especially when hitting someone on the nose), “pof”, “tchoc”, “tchac”, “bang”…
2 – The French Sound For Sleeping = Ron-ron
No Zzzz for us. Must be the French R.
3 – The French Onomatopoeia for Hushing = Chut
Pretty loud for a hushing sound if you consider the T is pronounced. This is how “soft” the French T is….
4 – The French Written Sound For Falling Into Water = Plouf
And the French onomatopoeia for falling on the ground is “patatra” (kaboum)… I really wonder where that one comes from!
5 – The French Sound For Firing a Gun, Bang-Bang = Pan-pan !
Low Intermediate & Above
Essential French DialogsUS$47.99US$38.39
6 – The French Sound For Disgust = Beurk
No “Yack” in French but quite a different onomatopoeia: “beurk”, or simply “berk”!
7 – The French Onomatopoeia for Enjoying Food = Miam
It’s our Yum! And we use it a lot. French people often show their appreciation for food by humming a “mmmm” sound. More about commenting on food in French in this article.
8 – The French Sound for Pain = Aïe
Pronounced it just like “eye”. We often repeat it three times: “aïe-aïe-aïe”!
9 – The French Sound for Tickling = Guili-guili
Pronounce this one with a hard G, the u is silent. So Gili-gili.
10 – French Baby Sounds = Ouin-ouin and Areuh-areuh
These have to be my favorites: “ouin-ouin”, featuring the nasal sound “in” for a crying baby, and “areuh-areuh” for cooning: how more French could this sound be?
Demonstration in this video – granted you’ll hear the mom say “areuh” more than the baby!
I’ll spare you the crying baby…
All images in this blog post were taken from “Astérix Chez Rahàzade”, copyright Editions Albert René.