What is onomatopoeia?

Onomatopoeia is the formation or use of words such as buzz or murmur that imitate the natural sounds associated with actions they refer to. Other examples are 'boom', 'rattle', 'crackle', 'squawk', and 'snap'. Both verbs and nouns may both fall into this category. For instance:

The duck squawked at the dog.

The duck gave a squawk of alarm when the dog approached.

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Onomatopoeia is the use of the consonant and vowel sounds of a pronounced or "heard" word to imitate, and thereby emphasize or bring to a listener's or reader's imagination, the sounds that might actually be heard in what is being described.

In that way, it is a literary device used to make writing or speech more vibrant and effective. It depends on a listener's or reader's ability to hear the sounds of the words.

Many words are onomatopoeic in and of themselves, such as "snap" and "scratch." However, the sounds used in speech don't need to be so obvious in order to still constitute onomatopoeia.

Some considerations about onomatopoeia have to do with what our natural sounds of speech remind us of. Phoneticians have classified consonant and vowel sounds, and some basic facts seem to be true.

The explosive consonant sounds (such as the sound of b, d, k, p and t) seem to bring to mind more violent actions or percussive situations. Consider the following sentence: "The horse trotted and clopped along on the cobblestones." In that, you can hear the horse's hooves on the hard road, if you use your imagination.

The sibilant consonant sounds (such as s, sh and f) have a gentler sound, and are often used in descriptions of water or flowing motions: "The shore was washed with every wave, revealing shells and sand with every pass." In that sentence, you can imagine the sound of ocean waves.

The z sound is often used for buzzing sounds, but you don't have to use the word "buzz" to get across the idea: "The bees, a blurry swarming fuzz of wings, are hungry for pollen, and they warn me off with the threat of stings." There are several n, ng and z sounds in that sentence, which help a reader or listener to imagine the buzz of a bee.

L sounds are often associated with running water. In that sense, even the word liquid is onomatopoeic.

Some research has also been done on how vowel sounds affect emotion or imagination. Vowel sounds range from low-pitched sounds, such as ahhh, to high-pitched, such as eee and ayyy. The lower pitched sounds generally contribute to a perception of somberness, slowness or sadness; while the higher pitched sounds generally convey a feeling of excitement or urgency:

"He tried to steer clear, but the screech of tires and metal pierced his hearing."

"The long and awful funeral march wound through the dark autumn toward the graveyard."

Those example sentences combine several qualities of tone, cadence and sound. But they illustrate how vowel sounds also can contribute to onomatopoeic effect.

To recognize onomatopoeia, you must hear the words, either read aloud or in your imagination. To use onomatopoeia, you must think of words that contain sounds that you think the reader or listener should hear, that would be appropriate for the action or situation being described.

This is a literary device which consists of a word which sounds like the sound it is representing. Some examples include 'whoosh' and 'boom'. Often times onomatopoeia is used to describe animal noises such as 'oink' or 'ribbit'. Both are imagery type words that appeal to the sense of sound. The words essentially imitate or suggest the source of the sound that describes it. These auditory words are meant to inspire readers to experience the context of the sentence more fully.

Onomatopoeia is when it sounds like the words you are describing e.g zip slash bang



Here are some words or written sounds that may be considered onomatopoeic: baa, bang, bark, beep, belch, boing, boom, bubble, burp, buzz, cackle, chirp, chomp, chortle, chuckle, clang, clap, clash, clatter, click, clip-clop, clunk, cock-a-doodle-doo, cough, crackle, creak, croak, crunch, ding, drip, fizz, flutter, gasp, groan, growl, grunt, guffaw, gurgle, hiss, honk, hoot howl, knock, knock, meow, moan, mumble, munch, murmer, mutter, neigh, oink, ping, pitter-patter, plink, plop, pop, purr, quack, ribbit, rip, roar, rumble, rustle, screech, shush, sizzle, slap, slither, smack, smash, snap, snarl, snore, snort, snuffle, splash, splat, splatter, splutter, squawk, squeak, squelch, thud, thwack, tick-tock, trickle, twang, tweet, waffle, whimper, whir, whiz, whoosh, woof, yawn, yelp and zip.