Onomatopoeia: Definition, Meaning, Usage and 300 Examples
What is Onomatopoeia? What Should You Need to Know About It?
In English literature, you have several ways to express a particular sound that can be used either by a human being or an animal. Onomatopoeia is one such literary device to represent a sound. To exemplify, crack, pop, buzz or hiss are all onomatopoeic. It is also used in poems. Often, it also represents an action by a human being or an animal.
Benefits of Using Onomatopoeia?
- Using onomatopoeic words in the English language is beneficial from several angles.
- We use onomatopoeia due to its following linguistic benefits:
- You can represent a sound of mankind or an animal like howl, mew, bark neigh
- It makes a literary piece read better due to its sound effect like Thomas banged the door or Ivan clapped his hands as he liked the lecture much.
- It has the benefit of being used as a noun, adjective, verb and adverb.
- In comics, the onomatopoeic words like whiz, crash and bang are used very frequently to describe a scenario mostly related to action.
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300 Examples of Onomatopoeia
Being used in the English language very frequently, there are a large number of examples of onomatopoeia words. We are listing alphabetically 300 of such words below:
1. A: Ahem, Achoo, Arf
2. B: Baa, Bang, Bark, Beep, Blip
3. C: Chatter, Clatter, Cackle, Chirp, Coo, Croak
4. D. Ding-Dong, Drum, Drip
5. E: Echo
6. F: Fizz, Fizzle, Flip-flop, Flutter
7. G: Gibber, Gnash, Gnaw, Gargle, Giggle, Groan, Growl, Grumble
8. H: Hiss, Hush, Howl, Hoot, Hum, Holler, Hiccup, Honk
9. J: Jingle, Jabber
10. K: Knock, Kerplunk, Klunk, Kaboom
11. L: Lisp, Low, Lub Dub (Hear Beating)
12. M: Meow, Mew, Moan, Moo, Mumble, Murmur, Mutter, Munch
13. N: Neigh, Natter, Nicker
14. O: Ooh, Oomph, Oink, Ouch, Ooze
15. P: Pooh-pooh, Ping-Pong, Pop, Pound, Prattle, Puff, Purr, Pulse, Plunk, Peep, Pip, Peel
16. Q: Quack, Quaver, Quiver
17. R: Rap, Ripple, Rattle, Roar, Rush, Rumble
18. S: Scream, Screech, Scurry, Shriek, Shuffle, Smash, Snap, Snarl, Sneeze, Sniff, Snore, Snort, Sob, Splash, Stomp, Stamp
19. T: Tap, Throb, Thud, Thunder, Trumpet, Twitter, Tut-Tut
20. U: Ugh, Uhh, Um
21. V: Vroom
22. W: Wail, Whack, Wham, Whine, Whisper, Whistle, Whimper, Wheeze
23. Y: Yahoo, Yap, Yelp, Yammer, Yowl
24. Z: Zap, Zing, Zip, Zoom
The Four Types of Onomatopoeia
You find four types of onomatopoeias in the English language. They are:
- Words that sound like actual or real things like chirp or meow
- Words, that evoke the sound effect of real things like howl or growl
- Word made up to sound like real things like swirl (swirling of water) or hiss
- Arrangement of letters to create a raw sound like hachoo for sneezing or tut-tut to show disapproval of something
Real Words That Sound Like Real Things
Some onomatopoeia words denote the real sound of real things like boom for an explosion, bang for a gunshot sound, croak for a frog, neigh for a horse or roar of a tiger. In a literary sense, you can Smash It with Onomatopoeia! The primary reason for this is the very exact sound effect of such words that represent almost the exact sound effect of the real things purr or bark (even growl or howl). The moment you read purr, you know it relates to a cat. Similarly, when you hear a bark, you know it is a dog’s growl.
Real Words Made to Evoke the Sound of Real Things
The onomatopoeic sound effect in English represents the sound of real things expressed through words like the crash of a car, cutting a tree by a whack, splash of water, spray of anything liquid, drizzle signifying rain, sprinkle telling some liquid being blown like water or drip (falling of liquid). We can further clarify this by giving the following examples:
- Music or sound blared loudly from the speakers or public address system
- Fish sizzled in the frying pan
- A large number of bees buzzed
- James jumped into the river with a splash of water
- The grandfather’s clock ticked breaking the silence of the room
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Made-up Words That Sound Like Real Things
English words can play their tricks. This is the reason why made-up words, at times, may sound like real things. Such words are used in scientific fields, professional terms used in shipping and in medical science. Like shipbreaking, shipbroking or ship manning. One of the reasons ‘these made-up’ words sound like real things is due to the ever-evolutionary process of the English language.
It must be mentioned here that the English language also borrows a large number of meanings from different other languages. Often two separate words are combined to give the shape of a single word and they are used commonly. They gain popularity. As a result, the English language is an enriched one. It is in the backdrop that the made-up words that sound like real things come in.
For example, droplet (a combination of Drop and Pellet) or Abibliophobia meaning fear of running out of books for reading (It can be explained as a biblio phobia: Biblio means reading materials or book and phobia means madness. If the word Abibliophobia is broken, it means a phobia for Biblio or books).
A Series of Letters that Mimic a Raw Sound
These are onomatopoeic mimics making raw sounds like gargling, clapping, zap, baa, woof, cracking and pitter-patter. Such onomatopoeic sound effects are basically raw sounds representing human beings or animals like ha-ha-ha and ho-ho-ho for human beings and mew for cats. Mew or meow denotes mimicking of cat. They have phonetic similarities with the sound thus appearing to be mimicking the actual sound. For example, the sound baa mimics a sheep as hiss for a snake. Making expressions through mimicking is one of the special literary devices of the English language.
How Can You Tell if a Word Qualifies as Onomatopoeia?
Onomatopoeia is basically a figure of speech in the English language in which words represent the actual sound of the thing like boom for a firework or bang (also bang bang) for gunfire. Tick tock” sound can easily represent a wall clock just as we know that ding dong is referred to as the doorbell. These sounds qualify as onomatopoeia.
The moment you hear such a sound, you know it qualifies as something which can be an animal, mankind or any other sound. You don’t even need to explain that bang means an explosion just as neigh means the call of a horse.
Why Do Writers Use Onomatopoeia?
This is to give exact expression to the sense blended with poetic sense. Onomatopoeic words sweeten the language and make the poems lively.
Such words act as a means to give vivid imagery to the poems.
Edgar Allan Poe beautifully uses onomatopoeic words in his poem The Bells:
“Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
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
How the danger ebbs and flows;
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling
And the wrangling”
In this poem, the words clang, clash, roar, twanging, clanging, jangling and wrangling are all onomatopoeic words. This poem also answers why the poets use this particular part of speech.
Other Helpful Onomatopoeia Resources
The other helpful onomatopoeic resources are mainly the following:
Helps a poet or writer reach the climax of expression easily and the traditional and literal words may not be able to give the same effect in sense and sound.
Such words have sensory effects and create an atmosphere of actuality and vivid imagery. You feel the scene is taking place before your eyes.
The sound effect is expressed with a single word. This is a mimic and phonetic representation of the actual sound of an animal, human being or anything else like a clock or machine or engine.
The type of sound can be expressed through such words. If a passenger train is running and sounding, the train is whistling. Similarly, a dog is barking or a snake is hissing or even a bird cooing in the jungle.
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Onomatopoeia is used for poems for both children and grown-ups. However, it particularly suits the poems written for the children. In pictorial comics also, such words are used as boom, bang, howl, growl, maul and hush-hush.