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Korean Onomatopoeias | What Are Mimetic Words in Korean?


What are Korean Mimetic Words?

In English, there is a term called “onomatopoeia” which is a word that imitates a sound it describes. Some examples are “zoom” for a motorcycle, “beep-beep” for a car horn, and “moo” for a cow.

Korean takes this concept a step further with the concept of “mimetic” words (의태어).

Mimetic words are similar to onomatopoeias, except they are describing a movement instead of just a sound. An easy way to think about this concept is to imagine a street mime.

In English, we don’t use onomatopoeia the same way Koreans do. If someone said, “Yesterday a bunch of motorcycles rode by my house vroom-vroom really loudly”, you might think it was strange.

However, using mimetic words in Korean is different. They are seen as very rich, descriptive, and colorful words that help paint a picture of what is really happening. Koreans learning English say that they have a hard time explaining themselves sometimes because these words don’t have a direct translation in English.

Incorporating mimetic words into your vocabulary as you learn Korean will make your descriptions much more powerful.


[You Can Find Audio Here]

반짝반짝 = sparkling/shining (for smaller things)

번쩍번쩍 = sparkling/shining (for larger things)

우당탕 = the sound you make when you bump into things

쿨쿨 = sleeping deeply/snoring noises

덜덜 = trembling, shivering

두근두근 = heart throbbing

> You can use this word to help describe a heart throbbing, often because of an exciting situation.

주룩주룩 = If you’ve been in Korea in June, then you’ve definitely heard the sound of rain pouring down 주룩주룩 (jurukjuruk). This mimetic word is similar to the word “streaming” or “dripping”, and is often used with rainfall or tears.

쨍쨍 = used to describe a blazing hot sun.

솔솔 = Use 솔솔 to describe a gentle, soft breeze.

말랑말랑 = You can use 말랑말랑 to describe specific soft and chewy food, such as chewy candy, marshmallows, or Korean rice cakes (떡).

Example Sentences:

These words are adverbs, so they are usually placed right before the verb in a sentence.


번쩍번쩍 윤이 나다

to shine brightly polished

날이 반짝반짝 빛나다

The day shines brightly.


우당탕 떨어져요

To fall (from being bumped)


쿨쿨 잠을 자고 있었어요.

I slept soundly.


몸이 덜덜 떨여

My body is shaking

아이들은 너무 추워서 이를 덜덜 떨었어

The kids were so called, so they're teeth were chattering/trembling


두근두근 떨려.

My heart is pounding.

면접을 보는데 심장이 두근두근 뛰어서 손이 다 떨리더라고

My heart was pounding during the interview, and my hands were shaking.


비가 주룩주룩 내려.

It rains heavily.

눈물을 주룩주룩 흘려요.

I'm shedding tears.


해가 쨍쨍 나요.

The sun is shining.

햇빛이 쨍쨍 비치는 바닷가에 누워 살을 태웠어

I laid on a sunny beach and burned my flesh.


바람이 솔솔 들어와요

The wind is blowing in.

열린 창문 사이로 바람이 솔솔 들어왔어

The wind came through the open window.


말랑말랑 반죽을 치대다.

Knead the soft dough.

빵이 말랑말랑 구워지다.

The bread is baked soft.


That’s the end of this post! I hope you liked it and learned something new~ Leave a like on this blog post and comment below your favorite mimetic word.

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