This has been on my mind for quite a while. 호롱호롱 seems to be the "default" word of choice for imitating the sound of mountain birds in many Korean children's songs, for instance,

  1. in 이슬 , 호롱호롱호롱 산새소리에...
  2. in 고향길, 호롱호롱 호로롱 산새소리에...
  3. in 싱그런 아침, 호롱 호로롱 뱃종뱃종 새들의 노래소리에...

But why? To my ears 호롱호롱 sounds nowhere like birds singing (unlike 뱃종뱃종 and 삐릿삐릿, which also appeared in the 3rd example above). I would rather say it is more like a snoring sound. Can anybody give me some hint how this word come to represent the mountain birds' sound?

  • 3
    I guess it would be very hard to know. (I'm not sure if the word was used in any surviving middle Korean text, but even then there's no guarantee that the ancient meaning was how it started.) Besides, "onomatopoeic words that doesn't sound like original" are quite common around the world. I don't think dogs really bark, and punches don't sound pow. – jick Jun 1 '19 at 18:12
  • I have found 쪼로롱 in "소리는 새콤 글은 달콤"; 짹째골 짹짹 in "귀여운 산새"; 짹짹짹짹 in "산새소리"; 삐리삐리 in "산새" by 차은영; 쪼로롱 짹째굴, 짹짹, and 깍깍 in "산새가 아침을." This illustrates that 호롱호롱 is not the "default" word. The use of 호롱호롱 seems to be related to voiced consonants, ㄴ, ㄹ, ㅁ, and ㅇ since 롱 has ㄹ and ㅇ. These consonants add somewhat positive feelings (smoothness, brightness, or coziness) to the lyrics. In a dictionary, there are other onomatopoeic words with such consonants and also syllable repetition: 끼룩끼룩, 꾀꼴꾀꼴, 꺼겅꺼겅, 배쫑배쫑, 부엉부엉, 맹꽁맹꽁, ... – Klmo Jun 5 '19 at 1:44

(1) Other sound similar to 호롱 :

호로록 = sound when a small bird takes off.

후루룩 = sound when we eat noodle or a bird takes off.

쪼로롱 : Let's sing with cute voice, for instance 쪼로롱.

쪼로롱 귀여운 목소리로 노래 불러요

초롱 초롱 : limpid eye 초롱 초롱한 눈

드르렁 드르렁 : snoring sound.

(2) kingfisher's sound :

쪼르륵 : sound when we are in a hunger

Someone says that it describes sound of (붉은) 호반새 (ruddy) kingfisher

Someone says that kingfisher sounds 호로로로롱, 뾰로로롱 or 쿄로로로.

Since sound of ruddy kingfisher is pretty, then we describe as follows : Sound when we play a flute or sound of a precious stone-rolling on silver try (은쟁반에 옥구슬 구르는 소리)

@ We use 은쟁반에 옥구슬 expression for girl's completely pretty voice.


It actually isn't published on a Korean dictionary, nor do we use it in conversation. The first word that came into my head when I think about the sound of a bird is '짹짹'(sound of sparrow), or '지지배배'(lark or sparrow), and so on.

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