Word for the noise made by a helicopter?

I once read about a nice word that describes the specific noise made by a helicopter in flight.

  • It wasn’t a generic verb like “rattling” or “juddering”, but one that only applies to helicopters.
  • It may have been onomatopoeic, but I’m not sure.
  • I’m almost sure it was a verb (as in “the […]ing noise of the helicopter”), but it could have been a noun (as in “we could hear the helicopter’s […] from a mile off”).

I’ve hunted on the internet to try to find this word again, but to no avail. I’m sure I’ll know it when I see it though. Does anyone else know this word?


It appears that the different noises produced by helicopers can be pretty complex, and I could not foresee the OP would raise my interest on this topic.

It is sometimes called with the broad and somewhat loose terms “chop chop”, choppy or chopping sound, see for instance:

While the “chop” root is loose, I like its similarity with the cut (“to chop”), and “chop chop“, rooted in Cantonese, adopted by English seamen meaning “hurry, hurry”.

More technical terms exist for their different noises, depending on the of enngine, the manoeuvre, the number of blades, the flight “mode”. A more technical SE discussion at The sound of rotating helicopter blades.

[EDIT] Indeed, the “Helicopter sound is rather complex”, as mentioned in Frequency Analysis of Helicopter Sound in the AS332 Super Puma, or in Helicopter blade slap, J. of Sound and Vibration, 1966 (a more accurate technical term proposed by @Sven Yargs) which says that:

Blade slap is the sharp increase in helicopter rotor noise, at the
blade passing frequency, that is characteristic of certain model
helicopters during some régimes of flight.


This can be defined as the loud, sharp increase in rotor noise, at the
blade passing frequency, that is so characteristic of particular model
helicopters during certain manoeuvres.

noting that:

Many times, blade slap noise has been mistaken for machine gun fire
and vice versa.

Finally, one can find many other onomatopoeic sounds here, for instance:

  • swish/swash/swish/swash
  • tocotocotoco
  • wuppa wuppa
  • whop whop whop
  • whumpa-whumpa-whumpa-whumpa
  • whup-whup-whup
  • thith-thith-thith
  • dubdubdubdubdubdub

Source : Link , Question Author : Rand al’Thor , Answer Author : Laurent Duval

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