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"What does the fox say?" Onomatopoeia, and Alien Languages claims there's no onomatopoeia for foxes:

But you don't find fox onomatopoeia in this context. Foxes tend to do one of two things: either they are silent, or they speak like humans do. It's certainly a testament to the fox's slyness that it's attributed with human speech, which fits quite well with its trickster qualities (and of course there are many myths that have the fox transforming itself into human shape, too).

The article goes on to cite a Wired article claiming that some of the sounds made in the Ylvis song The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?), such as "Chacha-chacha-chacha-chow", are accurate, but it doesn't indicate that they are commonly used onomatopoeia.

Are there any commonly used onomatopoeia for foxes in English?

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  • Not any commonly used ones, no. Foxes do not feature much in English speakers' mythological life, perhaps because they no longer feature at all in their actual life. Most North Americans, for instance, have never seen a fox in person, and wouldn't recognize it as a fox if they did. Hence there is no need of onomatopoeic expression for foxes, any more than there is for armadillos or aardvarks. Jul 23, 2016 at 14:36
  • 4
    onomatopoeia is for sounds things make. Not the thing itself.
    – Lambie
    Dec 14, 2022 at 17:20
  • @JohnLawler Brer Fox, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictional_foxes
    – Greybeard
    Dec 14, 2022 at 19:40
  • @JohnLawler In the last ten years or so, foxes have gone from storybook creatures to frequent roadkill in my neck of the woods (Philadelphia burbs). I see foxes several times a week and hear their strange bark in the crepuscular hours every day.
    – TimR
    Jun 28, 2023 at 19:43
  • (Urban) foxes are everywhere in Bristol, England! It's sort of a fox thing hereabouts to be discrete - seen out of the corner of your eye and rarely heard. No 'typical' onamatopoeic foxy utterances come to mind.
    – Dan
    Jun 28, 2023 at 22:20

1 Answer 1

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Short answer: No - which is why the Ylvis song is funny.

You can make one up that matches the sound they actually make or use the word "Bark"

Longer answer:

Here are more examples of fox sounds from a Viral Video: What The Fox Actually Sounds Like and

Fox Calls:

  • Alarm bark
  • Vixen's scream
  • Gekkering
  • Howl

Literature seems to favour bark which can be considered a weak onomatopoeia (BARK, BARK BARK does sound a bit like a dog)

I heard the foxes as they ranged over the snow crust, in moonlight nights, in search of a partridge or other game, barking like forest dogs... Thoreau


At night when I slept under an oak tree in the yard, when the white clouds scudded across a blue night sky of spring — it was then I heard the foxes bark on the high mountain top. They barked for me. Jesse Stuart


I heard the foxes howling near the house these two nights back. They always herald a death in our family. Sean O'Callaghan


I heard the fox kit begin to vocalize in a high-pitched, laughing yodel. John Ulanich

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  • Verbs associated with animals sounds are not onomatopoeia. Perhaps you might clarify that.
    – Lambie
    Dec 14, 2022 at 17:22
  • ??? Common onomatopoeias include animal noises such as oink, meow (or miaow), roar, and chirp. The pig oinked, the bird chirped
    – mplungjan
    Dec 14, 2022 at 19:47
  • woof, yes. bark, not really.
    – Lambie
    Dec 14, 2022 at 21:20
  • "No - hence the joke"... the joke?
    – Dan
    Jun 29, 2023 at 7:02

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