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What Is Onomatopoeia? (with Examples)

What Is Onomatopoeia? (with Examples)

Onomatopoeia is the use of words which imitate the sound they describe.

A lot of onomatopoeic words (but not all) relate to:
  • Our Voices (e.g., whisper, murmur, growl)
  • Air (e.g., hiss, swish, whoosh)
  • Water (e.g., drip, drizzle)
  • Collisions (e.g., smash, bang, clap)
  • Animal Noises (e.g., woof, moo, oink)

Examples of Onomatopoeia

Here are some examples of onomatopoeia:
  • The sausages are sizzling away nicely.
  • (The word sizzle sounds like sausages frying in pan.)
  • The cork pops off the top of the bottle.
  • (A word pop sounds like a cork existing a bottle.)
  • You can hear them whispering.
  • (The word whisper sounds like whispering.)
  • Undo the zip.
  • (The word zip sounds like a zip being operated.)
A word which has the property of onomatopoeia in one meaning might not have it in another. For example:
  • Can you pop to the shops?
  • (The act of popping in this context does not make a pop sound.)

Onomatopoeia in Words Representing Sounds, Objects, and Actions

Often, an onomatopoeic word will be the name of a sound. For example, words like bang, clap, and pop are often used to describe the sound of the event. Words representing animal noises (e.g., cluck, quack, and woof) are used in the same way. For example:
  • I heard the clap of thunder.
  • Did you hear the moo from that cow?
However, lots of examples of onomatopoeia are not used to describe sounds directly but actions and objects. For example:
  • She has a terrible cough.
  • The cars zoomed past.
Most onomatopoeic words can be used to represent the sound directly, an object, or an action. For example:
  • I could hear the sizzle.
  • (The noise itself)
  • The pork sizzled on the fire.
  • (An action which sounds like the noise)
  • The pork is a sizzler.
  • (An object which sounds like the noise)
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