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
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)
The watch-dogs bark!
Hark, hark! I hear
The strain of strutting chanticleer
(“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
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.
- Onomatopoeia is a main literary device used in literary language.