Special focus on Italian onomatopoeias

To celebrate the 20th Week of the Italian Language in the World and help you understand Italian comic books, we have prepared a short guide to Italian onomatopoeias

Italians are famous for communicating with gestures, however, there is another way to make us understood without using meaningful words: onomatopoeias (in Italian, onomatopee – singular form: onomatopea). To put it simply, onomatopoeias are words that imitate a sound and, if you simply browse through a comic book, you’ll find many examples. Unfortunately, just like words, they are not universal because every language processes the same sound in a different way due to its phonetic system, which may prefer certain consonants or vowels to describe a specific sound. And now let’s venture into the fascinating world of Italian onomatopoeias!

Italian onomatopoeias: a short list

A boy is crying
Ahia, che male!

By reading the following list, you will discover that some of the onomatopoeias you can find in Italian comic books actually have English origins.

Aaaah! = fear, surprise = paura

Ahahah! = laughter = risata

Ahi!/Ahia! = pain = dolore

Argh! = anger = rabbia

Bang = shot = colpo

Bla bla bla = chatting = chiacchierare

Bleah!/Puah! = disgust = disgusto

Boom = explosion = esplosione

Brrr = shivering with cold = tremare dal freddo

Brum = car = macchina

Clap clap = clapping hands = applauso

Clic = pressing a button = premere un pulsante

Drin = telephone = squillo del telefono

Eh? = surprise, asking for clarification = sorpresa, richiesta di chiarimento

Etciù = sneeze = starnuto

Fiii = whistle = fischio

Fiuuu = relief = sollievo

Gulp!/Gasp! = astonishment, surprise = stupore, sorpresa

Hic! = hiccup = singhiozzo

Lalala = singing = cantare

Mmmh = thinking = pensare

Ooooh = surprise = sorpresa

Oops = apologizing for a mistake or minor accident = scusarsi per un errore o un piccolo incidente

Sbam! = slamming = sbattere

Slap = slap = schiaffo

Slurp = eating something very tasty = mangiare con gusto

Sniff sniff = sniffing = annusare

Ssssh! = hush! = zittire

Tic tac = clock = orologio

Toc toc = knocking on the door = bussare alla porta

Tuu tuu = telephone busy signal = segnale del telefono occupato 

Uff/uffa = exhaustion, boredom = noia

Wow! = astonishment, admiration = sorpresa, ammirazione

Yuhu/urrà/evviva! = joy, approval = gioia, approvazione

Zzz = sleeping, snoring = dormire, russare

What does the fox say?

A fox
Animal sounds are a particular (and particularly fun!) kind of onomatopoeia

Do you remember The Fox, the viral hit by Norwegian duo Ylvis? It was a sort of Old MacDonald Had a Farm of our times, mentioning animal sounds, and it was even used as a teaching tool for children learning English. But do you know how animals “sound” in Italian? If you don’t, read on and listen to Nella vecchia fattoria!

Bee, fly, mosquito = zzz

Cat = miao

Chick = pio pio

Cow = muuu

Crow = cra cra

Dog = bau bau

Donkey = ih-oh

Duck = qua qua

Frog = cra cra

Hen = coccodè

Horse = hiiiiii

Lion, tiger and big cats in general = roar/grrr

Mouse = squit

Rooster = chicchirichì

Sheep, goat = beee

Small bird = cip

Wolf = auuuuu


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