Ruff-Ruff, Boom, Moo, Pow and Bang-Bang are all onomatopoeias, but did you know they sound different in French? Let’s explore 25 animal sounds in French which don’t always sound the way you think they should.
25 examples of French animal sounds (onomatopoeias)
Whether you’re learning French for fun or you’re merely curious, French onomatopoeias are a fun way to increase your French vocabulary and sound more like a native speaker.
They can even help you write more descriptively in French.
Kids especially love animal onomatopoeias.
What is an onomatopoeia?
Linguists refer to words you use to imitate a sound made by a person, an animal or a natural object as an onomatopoeia, which can sound different in other languages.
For example, here are a few English and French onomatopoeia sounds.
- Knocking on a door: (English = knock knock) (French = Toc Toc).
- The sound of someone drinking: (English = glug glug) (French = glou glou )
- When something tastes delicious: (English = Yum) (French = Miam)
- Gunshot: (English = bang bang) (French = pan pan)
- When you hurt yourself: (English = ouch) ( French = aïe! pronounced “I.”)
FRENCH ANIMAL SOUNDS: FARM ANIMALS
1) Cow mooing— meuh
La vache meugle or the cow moos.
This might be the most important French animal sound you need to remember because cows are important in French culture.
Without cows (and sometimes goats), how else would France be able to produce over 1,000 different types of cheese?
More proof of the cow’s importance is in the multitude of French expressions and proverbs concerning cows.
Here are a few French expressions using the word cow (vache).
- La vache!=The cow: La vache is an expression used when you’re surprised, like Holy cow, OMG, WOW, etc.
- Vachement! = Literally means cowly: Vachement is a common word added before an adjective to reinforce its meaning. Vachement bien—really good, vachement stupide—really stupid.
- Parler français comme une vache Espagnole: = To speak French like a Spanish cow: Idiomatic expression in French which means you can’t speak French very well. Your accent is so bad that you butcher the French language when you talk like a Spanish cow would.
- Il pleut comme vache qui pisse != means it’s raining like cows that piss: Idiomatically means it’s raining a lot. The closest expression in English is it’s raining cats and dogs.
You might be interested in these other fun French idiomatic expressions regarding animals.
2) Pig grunting (oinking)— groin-groin
Un cochon grogne: means a pig grunts.
GROGNE can also mean to growl, as in growl like a dog or for humans to grumble dissatisfaction at something.
Pigs in French culture often have a negative connotation.
Here are a few examples:
- He’s a real pig: C’est un vrai cochon.
- Eat like a pig.: Manger comme un cochon.
- Really bad weather.: Il fait un temps de cochon.
- Naughty or lewd (in this case, racy photos): Des photos cochonnes:
3) Donkey braying— hihan
L’âne brait: means a donkey brays.
The French animal sound a donkey makes sounds pretty similar in English and several other languages.
There’s no denying a donkey’s bray can be quite loud. As in English, the bray can also be used to describe someone who speaks too loudly.
- Faire l’âne pour avoir du son: French expression meaning «Play the donkey to have sound.»
4) Horse neigh— hiiiii
Le cheval qui hennit or a horse neigh.
If you’ve ever heard a horse’s sound, you know it’s a little hard to describe. In English, a horse’s animal sound is written as a neigh.
In French, it’s onomatopoeia is hiiii and it really does sound like a horse to me.
5) Sheep bleating— bêê
Le mouton bêle, the sheep’s bleat.
In French, the animal sounds a sheep makes is bêê, whereas, in English, it’s baa.
Goat bleating— bêê
L’agneau bêle, the
7) Turkey— glou-glou
In French le dindon glougloute means the turkey gobbles.
The French animal sound a turkey makes is glou-glou, which also happens to be the same onomatopoeia used to describe the drinking sound in French, which would be glug glug in English.
8) Baby chick whines— piou-piou
In French Le poussin pépie: A baby chick whines.
The baby chick animal sound in French sounds like lasers shooting —piou piou /pyu-pyu/.
9) Rooster (cock) crowing— cocorico
Le coq chante: The rooster crows.
A rooster crowing sounds funny in any language and is even funnier to say in French.
Try saying cocorico without laughing.
10) Chicken or hen clucking— cotcotcodet
La poule caquette and la poule glousse both mean a chicken clucking.
The verb caqueter also means to gossip or to yammer on about nothing, while the verb glousser can also mean to giggle or chuckle.
Yammering, gossiping, and giggling are exactly what chickens sound like, don’t they?
FRENCH BIRD SOUNDS
11) Duck quacking —coin-coin
The verb cancaner is used to describe a duck’s quack —Le canard cancane also means to gossip, similar to the verb caqueter used to describe a chicken’s cluck.
12) Crow cawing —crôa-crôa
le corbeau croasse
A crow cawing sounds like crôa-crôa in French, while in English, a crow goes caw caw.
13) A bird chirping— cui-cui
Chirp chirp goes the bird in English, while in French, it goes cui-cui /kwee-kwee/.
I actually think the French onomatopoeia sounds more accurate and cute.
14) Owl hooting— ouh-ouh
Le hibou hue: Tyne owl hoots.
The French animal sound for an owl hoot in French (ouh-ouh) sounds a lot like it does in English (Hoo Hoo), except you don’t pronounce the H.
The H sound doesn’t really exist in French. In Fact, it’s one of the sounds French people have a really hard time saying.
15) Pigeon cooing— rou rou
Le pigeon roucoule: The pigeon coos.
Like a horse neighing, a pigeon cooing is a hard one to describe, but the French, I think, have nailed the animal sound of a pigeon.
16) Goose honking —ca car
I never knew that the animal sounds a goose makes in English is referred to as honking, and it sounds like honk honk.
In French, a goose honking, l’oie cacarde, sounds like ca car.
FRENCH HOUSE PET SOUNDS
17) Cat mewing— miaou – miau
A cat’s meow in French sounds pretty similar to the way it sounds in English—miaou.
However, the French animal sound for a cat purring is ron ron, not at all similar to its English counterpart.
18) Dog barking— ouah ouah or ouaf ouaf
Le chien aboie or le chien jappe: Tyne dog barks.
The verbs aboyer and japper, used in the phrase above, both mean to bark in French and are used interchangeably.
However, when you say le chien jappe, it implies that the dog has a much more high-pitched bark like a smaller dog.
Le chien aboie implies that the dog might have a deeper bark, but not always.
Dogs are popular in France. People bring them everywhere, including in restaurants, grocery stores, on the tram and on trains.
There are also many expressions in the French language that refer to dogs.
Here are a few fun expressions using the French word aboyer—to bark.
- To be sick as a dog: (être malade comme un chien)
- To be like cats and dogs in French means to fight like cats and dogs: (être comme chien et chat)
- Between a dog and a wolf (entre chien et loup) refers to dusk or twilight but can also mean witching hour. The origins have something to do with how hard it is to tell the difference between a dog and a wolf during this time of the day. OOOH, SO SCARY!
FRENCH WILD ANIMAL SOUNDS
19) Lion roaring— raoh
The French onomatopoeia for a lion’s roar or le rugissement d’un lion is roah.
The verb rugir, which literally means to roar, can also be used in other expressions not involving a lion.
- Roar with anger: (Rugir de colère)
- We heard the wind roar: On entendait rugir le vent.
20) Wolf howling— ooouh
A wolf that howls or un loup qui hurle sounds almost identical in French as it does in English.
21) Snake hissing— ssss ssss
Le serpent siffle literally means the snake whistles but is used to describe a snake’s hiss.
Surprise, surprise, a hissing snake in French sounds just like it does in English —sssss.
22) Mouse squeaking— piit piit
I’m torn between eek eeek, the English onomatopoeia for a mouse sound and piit-piit, the French onomatopoeia for the noise a mouse makes.
23) Cigada chirp— crii crii crii
Cicadas are everywhere in France, especially in the South of France.
In French, a cicada chirp or La cigale craquette sounds like this—crii crii crii.
24) Bee droning— bzzz
No surprise, L’abeille bourdonne, the bee droning, sounds the same in French as it does in English, bzzz.
25) Frog croaking —coac –croac
For better or worse, the French are known for eating frogs, so it makes sense that the written word for a frog croaking in French is spot on—coac-coac!