I've seen all of them used alone as a noun, for example: 太鼓のおと, 笛のね, somethingとおなじおん.

1 Answer 1


おと is the word for "sound" in general. You'll be using this most of the time.

is a literary and/or poetic expression that specifically refers to the pleasant sound from a musical instrument, a bell, or very occasionally an insect. It's basically a shorter equivalent of [音色]{ねいろ}.

おん is a technical term that refers to the reading of a syllable/character (in linguistic contexts) or the sound of a musical note (do, re mi, ...). When people are seriously talking about phonology or music using difficult words such as 濁音, 促音, 破裂音, 和音, 半音 and 倍音, they sometimes feel like using おん, too. It's also a counter for such sounds (e.g., ドミソの[3音]{さんおん}).

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