I'm writing a comic, and a character is about to ask another character for help, but it's taken her a lot of effort to be able to ask for help. So, before she finally asks she takes a deep breath and inhales before speaking. And I cannot think of what kind of Onomatopoeia you would use for taking a deep breath other than just writing deep breath. And that seems so lame.

Does anyone have any advice on how I could handle this problem?

  • Considerations of your comic book audience aside (and, given the echoic nature of the word, those considerations are not so consequential), you could use 'sough': v. intr. "To make a soft murmuring or rustling sound" (Am. Herit. 2011); "To draw the breath heavily or noisily" (OED Online). If the char. is inhaling through their nose, 'snuff' recommends itself.
    – JEL
    Aug 30, 2016 at 21:48
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    "Inhaling deeply"? Also, you could draw an extra frame where you show the inward focus of the character as she takes a deep breath and thinks to herself: "Okay now, deep breath... here goes!" And then in the next frame she says the line of dialogue. Aug 31, 2016 at 0:58
  • 2
    -- Sighhh -- well.. Aug 31, 2016 at 4:43
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    I am only glad that onomatopoeia is spellt like it sounds
    – Elliot
    Jul 10, 2021 at 12:55
  • But, should it be spelled like how @NagarajanShanmuganathan commented?
    – Ram Pillai
    Aug 9, 2021 at 13:13

3 Answers 3


A series of Hs could work. I have added "Well..." to indicate that the speech is about to start.enter image description here

  • Is that an image from somewhere with the original speech balloon, or one of those memes where text is put on an existing image? Is it a translation from Japanese? Can you reference it?
    – Stuart F
    Dec 7, 2021 at 14:08
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    I created it myself.
    – Greybeard
    Dec 7, 2021 at 20:57

Instead of trying to replicate the actual sound, how about using a simile or metaphor? You could compare the sound to, say, an air break, or compare the tension like the anxious anticipation of a getting a shot at the doctor.

Best of luck with your writing project!


First, Apologies
I'm not trying to call out or belittle earlier replies here. I'm just aiming to really explain what OP needs and WHY they require a precise and narrow scope of suggestions. Hopefully this will increase relevancy of replies. (Although I acknowledge this post is at least 6 years old at the time of my writing, and the whole effort likely moot...)

Also I'm looking for this exact thing right now, and while synonyms and simile suggestions are appreciated efforts to assist, they don't help answer OP's question. Let's clarify the problem, then do a little brainstorming to try and provide relevant/usable suggestions.

In a sentence:
It's a question of text as a visual medium, not text as a conversational/aural medium.

Squad Goals:
OP wants readers to be able to intimate that the character is taking a deep breath based on reading a sound, not a concept, within the text bubble. Those bubbles are exclusively reserved for sounds coming from the character, presumably their mouths, and having them "say" the breath sound is much more succinct and better storytelling, to my eyes and ears, rather than including an exposition box in the panel's corner. One whose blurb explains their need to prepare for their long filibuster speech with a deep breath. They would be better fit a traditional novel, which for most intensive porpoises is an auditory medium, whereas comics are largely visual, and they include the text in that visual context. Lettering style, size, color; they all work together to infer the action in a given panel to the reader through showing, not telling.

It is rushing air whose auditory essence we are trying to capture. What sounds do your lips make as you take a deep breath in that rushed manner comedies have made us familiar with...

It's a mix of f, s; almost like in snake, but not quite. That's with my teeth closed. There is a bit of w in there as the lips tighten and teeth apart. If the mouth is more wide open then an ahhh sound maybe gh/tch/khu all hard starting sounds from the back of my throat. And I think of p when the breath is full and the mouth closes, but like it's played in reverse; because p read aloud is a !POP! ending with lips apart. But this p is muted ending with lips together. A byproduct sound upon quitting the action. So instead of "puh," a puff out of air, you have "hup." And that's not a terrible phonetic description of a short puff of air in, on its own. Just not dramatic enough for a deep breath, or to convey to the audience that a long lecture or speech etc. is to follow.

OP, Forgive me my presumption in explaining YOUR needs. Correct me if I'm wrong about any of it. The rest of you, let's get those nonsense letter chains,(NOT synonyms or creative writing samples) to describe taking a deep breath!! That's letter chains and not chain letters. Those are a completely different thing that the internet killed years ago...
"fffffffffp" or "fwwwwwwwwwwup" <--this is my best effort thusfar.
"Hhhhhst." "Whhhhhhhhhhhhfp" I still like "fwwwwwwp/fwwwwwwwup" the most. "khhhhhhuaaaaaup" hccccccccuuuuhp...iunno, hope that helps you OP. It definitely helped me to talk it through to clarify OP's needs from the thread.

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