Vocabulary Lists Are Back!

03 Mar 2006

A long time ago I made a page for names of different types of alchohol in Chinese. At the time, I had grand visions of lots of atypical and interesting vocabulary lists (i.e. no list of “countries” or “animals” or “fruits” in Chinese). That project stalled. For a long time.

Well, it’s back: Sinosplice Vocabulary Lists. Right now there are only three, but that number will expand. I’ve already started working on some new ones. (I also gladly accept additions to existing lists or new list ideas.)

One of the new ones is Chinese Onomatopeia. I compiled this list myself, and I haven’t found a similar list anywhere else on the internet. So get it here first, until other people copy it! (Better yet, link to it and give me some Google rank love.)

Onomatopeia are fun. My dad taught me a love for animal noises in foreign languages, but there are more than just animal noises in the list. Here are some wacky questions you can answer by browsing the list:

1. What noise in Chinese sounds like the name of a cheese in English?
2. How many of the 52 Chinese onomatopeia in the list are identical to the corresponding English onomatopeia? (Hint: not many!)
3. What bird makes the same noise as a frog?
4. What Chinese onomatopeia are missing? (Hint: this is a trick question to which I do not know the answer!)

The other new list is Cartoon Character Names. Kastner helped me out by compiling this one. I still owe him for that. (Thanks, man!)

Your conversational Chinese may be pretty decent, but you can likely stand to take it up a notch or two by adding the Chinese names of the Transformers, He-Man, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to your vocabulary. Yes, you need this. (Did I mention it impresses the ladies?)

With the exception of the original alcohol list, I have been using AdsoVocab to generate the lists. The auto pinyin completion saved me a lot of time. I recommend you check it out if you have not seen it already.

I would love to add stuff like this to my site all the time, but the sad, ironic truth is that I very rarely have time for this kind of thing anymore because I’m going to grad school so that maybe I can get paid to do something like this down the road. Anyway, enjoy! I’ll be out of grad school in 2007.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. 1- Guda/Clack

    2- The cuckoo. This bird in Chinese is called “buguniao”, and its sound in Chinese is “bu-gu. bu-gu!” (that answers the fourth question, although I don’t know the hanzi).

  2. It’s 布谷.

  3. Greg Pasden Says: March 3, 2006 at 5:48 am

    After reading this the expression on my face it that of an adult trying to figure out how to program a VCR.

  4. I once had a discussion on the differences between onomatopoeia for animals in Chinese and English with a student of mine. After going over them, he said to me, “But those sounds don’t sound anything like the sound the animal actually makes.” I assume he meant that the Chinese onomatopoeia was a much more accurate reproduction. Well, of course to him he doesn’t think of a dog going woof woof, but as wang wang. Sometimes ethnocentrism in China just makes me laugh.

    And just to be fair, ethnocentrism in the States makes me laugh too. I have heard many times before, both humorously and seriously, “Why do Chinese still use chopsticks? Haven’t they ever seen forks before?”

  5. ooooooooops,
    lol. well, some cartoons are not well-known (even not available) in mainland China, so I missed kinda stuffs, too bad…

  6. That’s some awesome stuff, John. You could definitely find somebody to turn these into a book, once you create enough lists. In the meantime, have you considered creating a printer-friendly format for the lists online?

  7. Thanks for the credit line on the animal sounds. I usually just ask native speakers “What noise does a rooster make?” Most of them get into it a bit & enjoy comparing the sounds.

  8. How about (if we’re making a hit w/ 4 yr olds) the sound of a burp, flatulation, or a kiss?

  9. Matt,

    Ah, printer-friendly format! I originally intended to do that, but I forgot. It’s just a matter of creating a printer-friendly stylesheet, and then sticking it in the global header so it can be used anywhere on the site. I’ll try to get to that soon.

  10. Hey, reading those cartoons I saw that He Man is called Xī Màn (She Man) …hehe, sounds like a strange movie I was once subjected to

  11. Tim P. ,
    we use “o, o, o”(哦,哦,哦) to describe roosters’ noise.

  12. That’s wierd, how Transformers is 变形金刚。 Isn’t 金刚 King Kong? So Transformers are shape-changing King Kongs?! Or is King Kong really a Transformer who just can’t change shape?


  13. May I add an onomatopeia? The clicking sound of a camera: ka cha (no, i don’t know how to write it in characters, although Wenlin suggests 喀嚓 for “snapping”).

    Great list anyway


  14. 嘟嘟嘟 – the sound a sword makes when one’s true love is nearby. (嘟嘟 is used for “beep beep” “toot-toot” sounds in general.)

    For cartoons, there’s 铁臂阿童木 – Astro Boy

  15. Dan,
    Good question! Chinese ppl refer 金刚 to those who’re huge in shape, powerful in strenth and hurtless to body like Heracles.
    Transformers and King Kong both have these Characters, that’s why we call them 金刚.

  16. 金刚 is kind of archangel in Buddhism, which means “diamond” in Sanskrit, thus 金刚石, if I don’t mistake.

  17. No sorry, not sanskrit. “佛教称佛的仕从卫士,因手拿金刚仵(古印度兵器)而得名。现代汉语辞典,2000。” That’s it.

  18. The sound of bubbling water is pila-pulu or thereabouts – corrections welcome!

  19. Simone,

    That one’s in there as “咔嚓”. Look for “Sound of breaking or snapping”.

  20. zhwj,

    Ah, thanks. Leaving out 嘟嘟 is sort of a big oversight. Will add it, along with Astroboy.

  21. Lee,

    I have: Sound of trickling down – 噗噜噜 (pūlūlū). Different?

  22. proteal Says: March 4, 2006 at 5:37 am

    Great list, hard to find this kind of stuff. Is 嘎嘎 another duck quack?

  23. Incoherance Says: March 4, 2006 at 7:14 am

    He Man = Xi / She man?

  24. chengdude Says: March 4, 2006 at 9:44 am

    Hey, what’s with all the little squares interspersed among the Pinyin in the cartoon characters list? I’m viewing in UTF-8 and tried all the other encoding options, but no joy. The onomatopeia list is fine.

  25. You should make a list of all the weird sound noises Chinese girls make when texting, that’s some wierd shit.

    Another good list would be number replacemts for words in texts

    88 = baibai
    886 baibai, actually I don’t know what the 6 is…
    5555555 = crying

  26. chengdude,

    That’s very strange… those two pages are encoded the same way, so if you can view one, you should be able to view the other. The squares usually pop up when you don’t have the required font, but if you can view one page but not the other, then I can’t explain it…

  27. Alf,

    to my knowledge, the 6 in 886 is just for “le”, because liu sounds similar to le.

    Ba Ba Liu = Bye bye le.

  28. The Smurfs are 蓝精灵 I think. Gargamel is something like 咯咯巫。

  29. What about Sylvester?

    As a kid I always rooted for him, and booed his evil nemesis Tweety. And I am not even from the States.

    Don’t they air them in China?

  30. I was just looking at your lists and noticed that at least one more was missing, 嗖 (sou1) is the swish sound an arrow makes. My Chinese isn’t great yet but I’m trying to read a book that Chinese kids use called “成语故事” that’s part of a collection by 上海科学普及出版社. If anyone was wondering the chengyu was 百发百中 which is pretty useless (I think) unless you’re talking about having good aim…. maybe for those that like to play counter-strike?

  31. shouldn’t the “TMNT” just be the “他妈的” Ninja Turtles?

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