German word of the day: Die Lautmalerei

German word of the day: Die Lautmalerei
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
This poetic term is used when a word imitates the sound it represents.

Known as ‘onomatopoeia’ in English, the German word ‘die Lautmalerei’ can be broken down into two parts. 

Firstly, ‘laut’, which is found both as the adjective ‘loud’ and as the noun ‘der Laut’ (sound), and ‘die Malerei’ (painting). 

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This makes a lot of sense, as ‘painting with sound’ is essentially what onomatopoeia does – the word’s phonetics paint a picture of the sound in our minds when we hear it.

Common ‘Lautmalerei’ include animal noises, human sounds and weather sounds, and can be amusingly different across languages.

READ ALSO: Ten noises that sound very different in German  

Here are a few examples of German ‘Lautmalerei’ so you can sound like a true native when describing sounds:

rascheln – to rustle

schlucken – to gulp

klingeln – to ring

rutschen – to slip

platschen – to splash


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