What is Onomatopoeia

What is Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia refers to a word that phonetically imitates, resembles or suggests the source of the sound that it describes. Onomatopoeia comes from the Greek onomatopoiia meaning ‘word-making.’ It is a word that imitates the sound of a thing. It creates a sound effect that imitates the natural sound made by the described object. Since the word imitates the sound effects, it is not difficult to understand the meaning of an onomatopoeic word, even if you have never seen it before. 

Examples of Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeic words can reflect different sounds: sounds of nature, human voices, animal sounds are the base of most of them. Given below are some onomatopoeic words.

Water: gush, sprinkle, spray, splash, drizzle, drip

Air: swish, whisper, swoosh, whizz, flutter

Humans: giggle, mummer, grunt, chatter, roar, growl, mumble, blurt, hiccup

Animals: meow, baa, tweet, moo, neigh, oink

Collision: boom, bang, crash, clatter, thud, screech

The following sentences use onomatopoeic words (underlined)

We heard a loud bang, and we rushed out of the house.

The kitten meowed and jumped onto her lap.

Ding Dong! The church bells rang.

We ran to the shop in the drizzling rain.

Water gushed out of the underground tunnel.

The two girls giggled loudly.

You might have noticed in the above examples that onomatopoeic words can be used as nouns and verbs.

The book fell with a loud thud. –noun

The lion roared. – verb

What is Onomatopoeia


Onomatopoeia is generally used in literature to make descriptions interesting and expressive. The following examples are taken from some famous poets and authors of English.

“How they clang, and clash, and roar!

What a horror they outpour

On the bosom of the palpitating air!

Yet the ear it fully knows,

By the twanging

And the clanging,..”

( ‘The Bells,’ by Edgar Allen Poe)

Hark, hark!


The watch-dogs bark!


Hark, hark! I hear

The strain of strutting chanticleer

Cry, ‘cock-a-diddle-dow!’”

(“Tempest” by William Shakespeare)

“Over the cobbles, he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard.

He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.”   

(“The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes)

Even though onomatopoeic words mimic the natural sounds of the thing it refers to; it is surprising to note that onomatopoeic words can differ from language to language. This is particularly true in the case of animal sounds. For example, let’s see onomatopoeic words that refer to the sound of dogs in different languages.

bow wow – English

wan wan – Japanese

gav gav – Greek

guau-guau- Spanish

ouah! ouah! – French

Onomatopoeia – Summary

  • Onomatopeia creates a sound effect that imitates the natural sound made by the described object.
  • It is easy to understand Onomatopoeic words since the word mimics its sound.
  • Onomatopoeic words can differ from language to language.

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