How different languages depict dog and cat sounds

March 1, 2021 • 2:30 pm

I was asking my French-Canadian friend Anne-Marie (the travel guide) if the French use “vau vau” as the spelling for the dog barking that Americans write as “bow wow”, and she said no, that the French spelling is “wouf wouf”. Well, that’s close enough, but then I thought that someone should compile a list of all the different languages’ spelling of what we spell as “bow wow” (alternatively, “woof, woof”) or, for cats, “meow”.  Foolish me—I should have known that there are tons of such lists on the Internet. Anne-Marie called my attention to two of them.

Take this one from BarkPost: which gives sixteen national versions of “bow wow”. I’ll show just three that struck me:

Meong-meong? Seriously? But in the video below, which gives not the written but the verbal renditions, you can hear native speakers from 70 countries give their national versions of dog and cat noises. It IS “meong meong”!  What you can conclude is that, in general, most people hear dog noises the same way, but there are some odd variants. But there is much less international variation of cat sounds (why?). Note, though, that Thailand is very odd!

15 thoughts on “How different languages depict dog and cat sounds

  1. My dog perked her ears up for most of these. My lazy cats are napping in another room. When I was a 7-8-yr.-old in Martinique we used to play some kind of kids’ card(?) game in which you had fo answer very quickly with various animal sounds and it wasn’t easy for this American always coming up with the proper French sounds, especially since we had just moved from Vienna where I had probably learned English and German animal sounds concurrently. Our cat and dog (and goat and monkey) didn’t care one way or the other, as long as they got fed.

  2. Maybe the variation in dogs is related to the morphological differences among breeds. A German Shepard makes a “woof-woof”, while a Yorkie might be “wep-wep’ or “yap-yap”. There’s just more variation in dog vocalizations than in cats because of size differences???

  3. Testing…All of a sudden I’m needing to add all my info again🙀
    Anyone else having this issue? Just started in the middle of the afternoon.

  4. I was born and raised in France and I can tell you that the French expression for dog sound is definitely not “wouf wouf”, that’s an American expression that I have never heard in France. French-speaking Canadian have many English expressions in their language. In France, the sound made by dogs is “oua oua”, and the sound made by cats is “miaou”.

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