The words "呱呱" and "ribbit" are onomatopoeias that represent the sound of frogs, respectively in Chinese and English.

I hardly see any similarity between these two sounds. Why does the cry of the same animal sound so differently in Chinese and English?

  • Are the sound in either language similar to the real frog sound in some way?
    – fefe
    Commented Dec 31, 2019 at 5:16
  • I think the moral of this story is that frogs make a sound that is very different from any sounds that humans make.
    – user23661
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 19:34

3 Answers 3


Instead of directly answering your question I'm going to post this picture:

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  • And note to @Zuriel: "g" and "k" are related sounds, so I would consider the Chinese and Korean sounds to be nearly identical, followed closely by the Japanese, Polish, Italian, German, and Hungarian imitations.
    – dROOOze
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 2:28
  • Ribbit doesn't sound like frog to me at all. I guess it's not a onomatopoeic word. The corresponding words of ribbit in all the other languages seem to be onomatopoeic words.
    – ltux
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 9:10
  • I would add that 'croak' is also an English onomatopoeic word that is commonly used for frog sounds (it can be used for other animal or people sounds too, but frog sounds seems to be the most common usage); 'croak' seems to be more in line with those other language frog sound.
    – user23661
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 19:25

Unlike in English, where you can combine random letters of the alphabet to form nonsensical words to mimic a sound, sound effect words in Chinese are all borrowed from existing characters, sometimes adding the 口 radical to indicate it is a sound, e.g. 口 + 瓜 = 呱, we can only choose the character similarly pronounced like the sound effect the most.

Frogs make more than one kind of sound, 'ribbit' is just one of them. "呱呱" pronouns as "gua gua" is similar enough to a kind of sound frogs make

To mimic the sound of 'ribbit' we have only one character in Mandarin that is pronounced similar to "ri" (Rì), and no character is pronounced as "bit"

It is easier to match English sound effect with Cantonese because it has 9 tones instead of only four in Mandarin, 'Ribbit' would sound like 列別 /lit6 bit6/ in Cantonese

If you don't like 呱呱, you can use 咯咯, but you can't make up a new character for the frog sound


If you ask the frogs themselves, I think you might croak at their answers?

Here's one all could agree on, cats, "meow" in English and "喵喵" in Chinese, but I doubt the cats themselves would agree.

Let's not start on dogs, horses, etc......

  • However, if we kiss the frog, it may become a beautiful princess! I always get in trouble in big supermarkets: 你为什么来亲吻所有的青蛙呢?
    – Pedroski
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 2:08

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