Any advice for mimetic/ onomatopoeia words?

Hi, I’ve been encountering a lot of mimetic words, (onomatopoeia) words much more recently and was wondering if anyone has any tips on dealing with them. At first, I thought I could just memorize them in context. However, not only is that pretty difficult given how frequent they are, but I find that just memorizing them plainly does not give me a sense for the words themselves. It feels, flat to me. This contrasts against English onomatopoeia which I can immediately recognize as representing their respective item likely in part because I am a native speaker.

I thought that just reading a ton would give a sense of the language which would in turn allow me to acquire sense for their onomatopoeia. That, really has not worked, and while I am making strives in getting a feeling for Japanese, I have not made much progress on this front aside from plain memorizing.

Also, and I might be wrong, I feel like sometimes the author is just making up his own onomatopoeia and that confuses me. I sometimes have a hard time finding what the respective onomatopoeia is with a dictionary, let alone guessing from context clues. Is this common?

Tofugu published an excellent article on this a couple years ago.


Anything that uses one word glosses is sub-obtimal, there are many cases where the words refer to the same “sound” or idea but have different nuances.

I would suggest Jazz Up Your Japanese with Onomatopoeia, it is by far the best resources on the topic and not a very expensive book.


Thanks for the tips. I looked over Tofugu’s onomatopoeia guide and while it was rather informative, the format and addded depth of Jazz up Your Japanese with Onomatopeia seems much more like what I was looking for. Even that Tofugu article mentioned it, so that must mean something. I ordered it through Amazon and it should be coming around tomorrow. Hopefully that will be a good foot in the door for onomatopoeia.

I would say it put me in a situation where I’m no longer like “Da fuck?” when I run into an unknown Onomatopoeia, however I can still not spell the word properly.

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