All TopicsNewsTravelAnimeKawaii CharactersKawaii FashionJapanese StationeryMember Spotlight
YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogJapanese Onomatopoeia: Cute Words and More!

Japanese Onomatopoeia: Cute Words and More!

By Jamilia Brown
August 05, 2021

Many people want to study Japanese onomatopoeia (sound words) thanks to the influence of anime, Japanese video games, J-pop, and Japanese history, prompting many people to learn the language!

As you start learning Japanese, you might find many interesting onomatopoeic words. You may have read or heard the word doki-doki or other onomatopoeias in manga or anime.

But what does doki-doki mean? For those who may not know, an onomatopoeia is a word that comes from sound effects. In English, ‘boom,’ ‘pop,’ and ‘crunch’ are great examples.

While unusual for non-native speakers, these words are often used in everyday life by native Japanese speakers to describe a sound, related feeling, or emotion. They’re also shorter and easier for beginners than Japanese convenience store phrases. Here’s a list of the cutest Japanese words to know and use daily!

Doki-Doki: Excited (ドキドキ)

When you’re feeling excited or anxious, you usually feel it in your chest. ‘Doki-doki’ is the sound of your beating heart in these situations and describes a sense of excitement or anticipation.

You can use it before a big exam, and you’re nervous about passing, or before a first date with a cutie from your class. Most anime and manga fans are pretty familiar with this Japanese onomatopoeia!

Example: 胸がドキドキするわ (mune-ga-dokidoki-suruwa)

“My heart is racing!”

A woman who is in love and very nervous about it.

Has anyone ever made you go “doki-doki”? Image via Shutterstock

Kira-kira: Shiny (キラキラ)

Japanese onomatopoeia can be challenging to describe, and ‘kira-kira’ falls into that category. When an object’s surface is so shiny that the light dances off it, or when a star shines in the night sky, that’s kira-kira. In other words, think glitter, Christmas lights, or boy band outfits. This phrase even appears in the Kyary Pamyu Pamyu music video for “Kira-Kira Killer.”

Example: “このワンピースはキラキラですね!” (kono-wanpiisu-wa-kirakira-desu-ne)

“This dress is very sparkly!”

Want to experience true doki-doki? YumeTwins offers all that you need! YumeTwins sends all kinds of kawaii character goods – from Japanese plushies to stationery – right to your door so that you can enjoy your best kawaii lifestyle on your way!

Niko-niko: Smile(ニコニコ)

No one knows this word’s origin, but it’s often used in daily conversation, manga, and anime. ‘Niko-niko’ is a Japanese word for ‘smile,’ but it’s only used for a genuinely happy smile. It’s a noun, but when paired with the verb ‘suru’ (to do), it turns the word into a verb meaning ‘to me.”. 

Example: “赤ちゃんはニコニコしました.” (akachan-wa-nikoniko-shimashita)

“The baby smiled.”

Two women smiling happily, one with open eyes and one with closed eyes. They use the Japanese onomatopoeia "niko-niko" to describe their feelings!

Beautiful things make us go “niko-niko”! Image via Shutterstock

Nyaa or Nyan: Cat’s Meow (ニャー or ニャン)

‘Nyaa’ is the cute Japanese onomatopoeia that cats make. In other words, it’s the Japanese word for ‘me.”. Cat motifs are popular in Japan, and many mascots and costumes are based around cats. So, it’s widespread to hear this word in anime, dramas, and even songs! 

You can say ‘Nyaa’ in an even cuter way by adding an ‘n’ at the end, becoming the even more adorable word ‘nyan.’

Example: “猫はニャーしました.” (neko-wa-nyaa-shimashita)

“The cat meowed.”

Kawaii: Cute (かわいい)

Of course, one of the cutest words in Japanese is the word for ‘cute.’ Roughly translated, kawaii means just plain cute in Japanese. However, the meaning is closer to adorable or loveable, and it describes actions and appearance. For example, puppies, Japanese good luck charms, and J-pop idol dances are also kawaii!

Example: “その女の子がかわいいです.” (sono-onnanoko-ga-kawaii-desu)

“That girl is cute.”

Suki: Like (好き)

Words in Japanese sometimes don’t translate directly into English. ‘Like’ in English is a verb, but the word is actually an adjective in Japanese. In addition, ‘suki’ is often used to express your interests or affection for a person or thing. 

Generally, you’ll often see it at the end of sentences with the word desu (is/am/are). If you want to strengthen your feelings of affection, add the prefix dai (big/very) to the word to get a closer meaning to love. 

Example: “猫が好きです.” (neko-ga-suki-desu)

“I like cats!”

A businessman thinking about his wife who he loves very much. He uses the Japanese onomatopoeia "suki" to describe this feeling!

Who or what do you “suki” the most? Image via Shutterstock

Kirei: Pretty (綺麗 きれい)

A pleasant complement to ‘kawaii,’ ‘kirei’ can also be used to positively describe a person or thing’s appearance! While it’s mostly translated to mean ‘pretty,’ the nuance of the word is for something with a clean or well-refined appearance. On top of that, ‘kawaii’ has a more youthful feeling, while ‘kirei’ sounds a little more mature.

Example: “この部屋は綺麗ですね.” (kono-heya-wa-kirei-desune)

“This room is pretty.”

Chiisai: Small (小さい ちいさい)

The final word on our list is ‘chiisai,’ which means ‘small’ in Japanese. It’s often written using the kanji’ 小’, read as ‘ch,” and is used to symbolize something small. In addition, if you want to make this word sound even cuter, you can replace the ‘sai’ with ‘chai’ (chiichai). 

Example: 家は小さいです (ie-wa-chiisai-desu)

“This house is small.”

Overall, Japanese is full of cute words and phrases; learning them is likely the best way to start your language-learning journey. How do you feel about our list? Are there any other words or phrases in Japanese that you love? Let us know in the comments below.

Enjoy Popular Japanese Kawaii Merchandise Every Month!

Starting from $32.50 USD

Get YumeTwins

Author avatar
Jamilia Brown

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enjoy Popular Japanese Kawaii Merchandise Every Month!

Starting from $32.50 USD

Get YumeTwins

Related Articles

The Ultimate Guide to Enjoying Cherry Blossom Petals in Japan!

May 11, 2023

Cherry blossom season is a magical time in Japan that calls for celebration and enjoyment! With cherry blossom petals in full bloom, the scenery is picturesque and a sight to behold!

Japan Theme Parks: Best Ones!

April 26, 2023

Are you a lover of all things cute and whimsical? Then you’ll be happy to know that Japan is home to some of the most adorable theme parks in the world. From Hello Kitty to Ghibli, there’s a park to suit every cute-loving girl’s taste!

Studio Ghibli Theme Park: Best Attractions!

April 26, 2023

Studio Ghibli films have attracted worldwide audiences with enchanting stories, breathtaking animation, and memorable characters!

What is an Otaku? Find Out About Japanese Otaku & The Kawaii Sub-Otaku Group! 

April 20, 2023

If you are a Japanese culture, anime, manga, or gaming fan, you might have heard the term “Otaku” before. But what is an otaku and how does kawaii fit into the Japanese pop culture movement?

Studio Ghibli Landscape: Five Real-Life Locations!

April 13, 2023

It’s no secret that Japan is home to some of the world’s most beautiful and picturesque locations. From deserted theme parks to faraway islands, let’s look at some magical places that inspired the Studio Ghibli Landscape.

Japanese Fashion: Sakura Spring Edition!

March 30, 2023

In Japan, there are numerous fashion styles to observe and try. There’s something for everyone, from traditional kimono, looks to modern casual outfits to cosplay!

YumeTwins logo

Be a YumeTwins Insider!

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive kawaii news!


Accepted Payments
Visa payment availableMastercard payment availableAmerican Express payment availableDiscover payment availablePayPal payment available

YumeTwins Logo

Be a YumeTwins Insider!

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive kawaii news!


Copyright © 2023 YumeTwins™. All Rights Reserved.
Accepted Payments
Visa payment availableMastercard payment availableAmerican Express payment availableDiscover payment availablePayPal payment available