Canine Corner

The human-animal bond

How Dogs Bark in Different Languages

Here is a list of the sounds dogs make when they bark in more than 60 languages.

dog canine language communication bark translation word
Almost all dogs bark.  Science has shown that virtually all dogs also can understand the barks of other dogs regardless of where they come from, however the way that humans hear those barks differs depending upon the language that people speak and the culture that they live in. We humans often try to communicate the sounds of dogs barking to other humans when we are telling stories using common words like "woof-woof" in English. We also write these word sounds down, particularly in things like comic strips where a dog might be saying "arf-arf" or in children's books where we might indicate that a dog is barking using "bow-wow."

Linguists would tell you that the words that we use to represent dog barks are based upon onomatopoeia, which is the process by which we try to characterize a real world sound with a word that sounds something like it. Some common examples of onomatopoeia are hiss, buzz and thud.

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I suppose that when I posted my list of the words used to say "dog" in some 250 different languages [click here to see that list], it was inevitable that people would start to write to me to ask if dogs spoke different languages. Many of the queries were obviously concerned with how people hear or interpret the sounds of dogs barking as when they asked questions like, "Is the word 'woof' used for dog barks in all other languages?"

The answer is that there is no universally accepted sound that humans use to represent dog barks. Even in a single language there may be a number of different words used for a dog's bark, for example, in English we recognize "woof-woof," "arf-arf", "ruff-ruff" and "bow-wow." Many languages also have different words for the barks of large versus small dogs, thus "yip-yip" or "yap-yap" are used in English for the barking sounds of small dogs, never for big dogs. The only thing that seems to come close to being unanimously agreed upon about dog barks is that dogs almost always speak twice—thus a Hebrew dog says "hav-hav", a Japanese dog says "wan-wan" and a Kurdish dog says "hau-hau".

 Over the years I have collected over 100 dog bark words from more than 60 different languages. So to answer the question of how dogs bark in different languages (at least as far as their human listeners are concerned) I have decided to give you a look at my collection. The list is alphabetical by language, and is presented in the format "Language → Word(s) Used For Dog Barks", where the word for a dog's barking sound is spelled out phonetically, or at least phonetically as I hear the word when it is spoken (except for American Sign Language or ASL which obviously has no phonetic equivalent). If any of you know additional words for dog barking sounds in other languages that I may have missed, or notice any entries that I may have wrong (or mispronounced) please feel free to send them to me and I will edit the list accordingly.

 Language → Word(s) Used For Dog Barks

 Afrikaans → blaf-blaf; woef-woef; keff-keff (small dogs)

Albanian → ham-ham

American Sign Language (ASL) → Both closed fists held horizontally together-fingers in towards each other. Quickly open the fists together to expose the fingers twice.

Arabic → hau-hau; how-how

Armenian → haf-haf

Balinese → kong-kong

Basque → au-au (any dog); txau-txau (small dogs); zaunk-zaunk (large dogs); jau-jau (old dogs)

Belgian → wooah-wooah (if you believe Tintin's dog Snowy is typical)

Bengali → gheu-gheu; bhao-bhao

Bulgarian → bau-bau; jaff-jaff

Burmese → woke-woke

Catalan → bau-bau; bub-bub

Chinese-Cantonese → wo-wo; wow-wow; wong-wong

Chinese-Mandarin → wang-wang

Croatian → vau-vau

Czech → haff-haff

Danish → vov-vov; vuf-vuf

Dutch → blaf-blaf; woef-woef; waf-waf (small dogs); kef-kef (very small dogs)

English → woof-woof; ruff-ruff; arf-arf; bow-wow; yap-yap (small dogs); yip-yip (very small dogs

Esperanto → boj-boj

Estonian → auh-auh; auch-auch

Finnish →hau-hau; vuh-vuh; rauf-rauf

French →wouaff-wouaff; ouah-ouah; whou-whou; vaf-vaf; jappe-jappe (small dog)

German → wuff-wuff; vow-vow

Greek → ghav-ghav

Hebrew → hav-hav; haw-haw-how-how

Hindi → bow-bow

Hungarian → vow-vow, vau-vau

Icelandic → voff-voff

Indonesian → guk-guk; gong-gong

Irish → amh-amh

Italian → bau-bau; arf-arf

Japanese → wan-wan; kian-kian

 Korean → mung-mung; wang-wang

Kurdish → hau-hau

Latvian →vau-vau

Lebanese → haw-haw

Lithuanian → au-au

Macedonian → av-av

Malay → gong-gong

Marathi → bhu-bhu; bho-bho

Nigerian (Calabar area) → wai-wai

Norwegian → voff-voff; boff-boff; vov-vov

Persian → vogh-vogh; cut-cut; bad-bad

Polish → hau-hau

Portuguese → au-au

Romanian → ham-ham; hau-hau

Russian → gav-gav; guf-guf; hav-hav; tyav-tyav (small dogs)

Serbian → av-av

Sinhala → buh-buh

Slovak → haf-haf; hau-hau

Slovene → hov-hov

Spanish → guau-guau; gua-gua; jau-jau

Swedish → voff-voff; vov-vov

Tagalog → ow-ow; baw-baw

Tamil →wal-wal, bow-bow, lol-lol

Thai → hong-hong

Turkish → hev-hev; hav-hav

Ukrainian → hau-hau; haf-haf; dzyau-dzyau

Urdu → bow bow

Vietnamese → gau-gau; wau-wau; ang-ang

Welsh → wff-wff

Stanley Coren is the author of many books including: Born to Bark, Do Dogs Dream? The Modern Dog, Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? The Pawprints of History, How Dogs Think, How To Speak Dog, Why We Love the Dogs We Do, What Do Dogs Know? The Intelligence of Dogs, Why Does My Dog Act That Way? Understanding Dogs for Dummies, Sleep Thieves, The Left-hander Syndrome

 Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia.

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