10 animal sounds in different languages

10 animal sounds in different languages

by Andrea Byaruhanga

Updated August 24, 2022

What sound does a dog make? 

If you said “woof,” you’re right—and also wrong. Sure, that’s the sound a dog makes in an English-speaking country, but what about a French or German animal?  

It’s tempting to assume that animal noises in different languages are all the same, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every language has its own words created to imitate sounds, known as onomatopoeias, for animals.  

While some animal sounds around the world are remarkably similar, many are wildly different. Below, we explore ten animals’ sounds in different languages. These onomatopoeias are sure to surprise you!

  1. Cats
  2. Cows
  3. Dogs
  4. Ducks
  5. Frogs
  6. Horses
  7. Mice
  8. Pigs
  9. Roosters
  10. Sheep

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1. Cats 

Starting off our list are cats. As you’ll see below, although the spelling differs, the sounds they make in most languages are surprisingly similar. In fact, the only language below that has a completely different cat sound is Korean.

  • English: meow
  • French: miaou
  • German: miau
  • Italian: miao
  • Korean: yaong
  • Mandarin: miāo
  • Russian: myau
  • Spanish: miau
  • Swedish: mjau
  • Vietnamese: meo

2. Cows

Here’s yet another animal with a sound distinct enough that many languages use the same—or very similar—sounds. A common theme here is the use of either “m” or “b” followed by an “oo” sound. 

  1. Afrikaans: moe
  2. Albanian: muu
  3. Czech: bůů
  4. Danish: muh
  5. Dutch: boe
  6. English: moo
  7. French: meuh
  8. German: muh
  9. Indonesian: mooh
  10. Italian: mu

3. Dogs 

Unlike cats, dogs around the world make very different sounds. Maybe it depends on the breeds or sizes of the dogs that are most common in each country. A tiny lap dog would make a different sound than a herding dog, for example.

  • Dutch: blaf-blaf
  • English: woof-woof
  • Icelandic: voff-voff
  • Indonesian: guk-guk
  • Japanese: wan-wan
  • Korean: meong-meong
  • Mandarin: wāng-wāng
  • Romanian: ham–ham
  • Russian: gav-gav
  • Turkish: hav-hav

4. Ducks

While some of the duck sounds below are different, you’ll notice some similarities too: Just look at German and Italian, for instance. Even the Spanish cua-cua sounds pretty close to quack-quack.

  • Danish: rap-rap
  • English: quack-quack
  • Estonian: prääk-prääk
  • French: coin-coin
  • German: quak-quak
  • Hungarian: háp háp
  • Italian: qua-qua
  • Romanian: mac-mac
  • Spanish: cua-cua
  • Turkish: vak-vak

5. Frogs

There are a few similar features in some of the frog sounds below, such as “c,” “k” and “r” sounds. However, for the most part, it appears as though frogs croak quite differently from country to country! 

  • Mandarin: guō-guō
  • English: ribbit
  • German: quak-quak
  • Hungarian: brekeke
  • Italian: cra-cra
  • Japanese: kero-kero
  • Korean: gaecool
  • Polish: kum-kum
  • Spanish: croá-croá
  • Turkish: vırak-vırak

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6. Horses

We can probably all agree that most horses make pretty much the same sound despite their breed. However, there seems to be a lot of disagreement about what that sound is. Just look at all the interpretations below!

  • Danish: vrinsk
  • English: neigh
  • German: hü-ü-ü-ü
  • Hebrew: hee hee
  • Hungarian: nyihaha
  • Japanese: hihiin
  • Polish: i-haaa
  • Russian: i-go-go
  • Spanish: iiih
  • Swedish: gnagg

7. Mice

You can see that all of the mouse sounds below convey that teeny-tiny sound the little rodents make, yet they’re all quite different. 

  • Dutch: piep
  • English: squeak
  • German: i-i-i-i
  • Hebrew: cleek
  • Hungarian: cin
  • Italian: squitt-squitt
  • Japanese: chuu-chuu
  • Korean: jjik-jjik
  • Mandarin: zī-zī
  • Spanish: cui-cui
  • Swedish: pip-pip

8. Pigs

Judging from the list below, it looks like pigs would have to overcome major language barriers if they visited different countries—none of these sounds have much in common!

  • Albanian: hunk
  • Dutch: knor
  • English: oink
  • German: brunz
  • Japanese: buu
  • Korean: ggul
  • Polish: kwik-kwik/chrum-chrum
  • Swedish: noff
  • Turkish: oğğk
  • French: groin-groin

9. Roosters

Apparently, roosters have a pretty unmistakable sound; it’s very similar in a lot of languages. Sometimes spelled with a “c,” sometimes with a “k” and even with an occasional “q,” all the sounds below are multisyllabic and have a distinct rooster feel. 

  • English: cock-a-doodle-doo
  • Finnish: kukko kiekuu
  • French: cocorico
  • German: kikeriki
  • Hebrew: coo-koo-ri-koo
  • Hungarian: kukuriku
  • Japanese: ko-ke-kok-ko-o
  • Portuguese: cucurucu
  • Spanish: qui-qui-ri-quí
  • Turkish: kuk-kurri-kuuu

10. Sheep

There are some differences between each of the sheep sounds we’ve listed, but they have a common thread: They all start with either an “m” or a “b,” and contain “a” or “e” vowel sounds. Our favorite is the Japanese sheep—it sounds so unimpressed!

  • Arabic: mbaa
  • English: bah
  • Finnish: mää
  • German: baehh
  • Greek: mae-ee
  • Indonesian: mbek
  • Italian: bee
  • Japanese: meh
  • Mandarin: mie
  • Vietnamese: be-be

Animal sounds: A world of differences—and similarities

Though it may seem silly, our list of animal sounds in different languages reveals something quite interesting: Despite their many differences, it’s not unusual to find common features in various languages; even those across the globe from one another. Do some research on your own to discover more!

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Andrea is a Canadian freelance writer and editor specializing in English, e-learning, EdTech, and SaaS. She has a background as an ESL teacher in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.  In her free time, Andrea loves hanging out with her husband and children, creating recipes in the kitchen, and reading fiction. She also loves camping and jumping into lakes whenever possible. Learn more about Andrea on LinkedIn or check out her website.

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