1. Onomatopoeia is the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named.
  2. Onomatopoeia is a word that imitates or suggests the source of the sound that it describes. It refers to the property of such words. Common occurrences of onomatopoeias include animal noises,such as "oink" or "meow" or "roar". (1)
  3. Use of words that imitate natural sounds.


Onomatopoeias are one of the most ancient part in human’s language culture.They do not present the same across all languages; hence the sound of a clock may be tick tock in English, dī dā in Mandarin, or katchin katchin in Japanese.Onomatopoeias conform to some extent to the broader linguistic system they are part of;

Onomatopoeias can be classified into nouns and verbs basically.
Some unique letters symbolize special phenomenon or situation and remind us of certain circumstance.

For example, words ended with letter “s” mostly relate to the sound of wind, water or snakes. Letter “m” refers to those low and deep sounds. Such as the sounds of insects, pigeons and tsunami. "H" must be pronounced by air flow, so they can remind us of those sound made in heavy work. Like hurry, heave, huge, hurl, hoist, hop and so on. "P" and "B" which are labial letters represent water-related sounds as boil, bubble, drip, drop, lap, plop and ripple.

external image 220px-Clocks_no_tic_tac.JPGORIGIN & FUNCTIONS of ONOMATOPOEIA:

Onomatopoeia has a long history. The noun onomatopoeia is thought to has been first used in around 1577 AD. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word onomatopoeia originates from the Greek word onomatopoiia meaning 'word-making'.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary reports the onomatopoiia is derived from the Greek onoma 'name' and poiein 'to make'.

A sound theory underlies that we read not only with our eyes but also with our ears.
The smallest child, learning to read by reading about bees, needs no translation for buzz.
Printed onomatopoeias appeared in written books are the start point for children to know about them.

Linguists almost always begin discussions about onomatopoeia with observations like the following: the snip of a pair of scissors is su-su in Chinese, cri-cri in Italian, riqui-riqui in Spanish, terre-terre in Portuguese, krits-krits in modern Greek. . . . Some linguists gleefully expose the conventional nature of these words, as if revealing a fraud."

(Earl Anderson, A Grammar of Iconism. Fairleigh Dickinson, 1999)

Like every other device of the writing art, onomatopoeia can be overdone, but it is effective in creating mood or pace. If we skip through the alphabet we find plenty of words to slow the pace: balk, crawl, dawdle, meander, trudge and so on.
Embedding some onomatopoeias into your article will vivid the characters and actions, improve your capability to use English language.


Onomatopoeia is widely used in English language especially in literal writing. Let’s move to some practical applications of onomatopoeia.

In the phrase “the fly buzzed past", the word buzzed is used to describe the noise of a flying fly.
Here is another example: "He clattered and clanged as he washed the dishes." "Clanged" and clanged" here is obviously remind us of the knocks of the dishes. external image onozipper.gif
Onomatopoeia is used widely when describing animal sounds such as "meow" is to imitate kitten.
What interests me is that the word "woof" is a name of a certain kind of canidae animal, and sound of it at the same time. So once we read the word "woof", it is easily to remind us the sound and the picture of woof the animal.

“Zip" is an onomatopoeia word. It sounds like a jacket is zipping up. When you zip up a zipper the sound the zipper makes sounds like a zipper."Zip" is an example of onomatopoeia because it sounds like what it is.

More similar examples are as follows:" Pop" is when a balloon is burst, “growl" is when a fierce dog is barking, "tinkle" is to describe a small bell's ringing, and "click" is what a light being switched on.

Some Applications in specific situations:


Take a look and listen aroud, if you are required to take all these sounds down, what would you do?My version may as follows:A turkey “gobbles” and a bull “bellows”;“twitters” went to a sparrow and bees are “humming”; A sow is grunting in her pig pen and the donkey is braying happily; Lams are bleating while oxen are bellowing. Wow! Look at that hissing viper in the grass!

Keep moving. On my way to a small lake, I can see the “babbing” water in the brook, hear the frogs "creaking", cuckoos "cuckooing", birds are "flapping" there wings in the woods. The mild wind whispered in the pines and I hear a wolf is growling.

external image onotray.gif2, ONOATOPOEIA WORDS in a restaurant:

When you enter a restaurant full of sounds, you will find that most of sounds goes to onomatopoeias. Let's make it more clear:

Click: somebody enters and close the door.
Boom: goes the food trays.
sizzle: french fried is in the oil pan.

Clanged: the crunching dishes.
Rip:gose the plastic bag.

Munch: you are eating a hamburger.

Slurp:went the straws.

Crunch: go the candy bars.

Clatter: the girls are gossiping.
Flap: a fly was flapped off. (4)

EXAMPLES and OBESERVATIONS in literal applications:

The use of onomatopoeia in literature is quite common; subconsciously we hear the words on a printed page. let's take a look at some classical ones.
  • "I'm getting married in the morning!
    Ding dong! the bells are gonna chime."
    (Lerner and Loewe, "Get Me to the Church on Time,"
    My Fair Lady)
"Ding dong" may can't be found in a dictionary, but it is so vivid that we can easily connect it to the door bell rings.

  • "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is."
    (slogan of Alka Seltzer, U.S.)
  • "Plink, plink, fizz, fizz"
    (Alka Seltzer, U.K.)
The onomatopoeias are combined with the rhythm sounds quiet catchy.

  • "'Woop! Woop! That's the sound of da police,' KRS-One famously chants on the hook of 'Sound of da Police' from 1993's Return of the Boombap. The unmistakable sound he makes in place of the police siren is an example of onomatopoeia, the trope that works by exchanging the thing itself for a linguistic representation of the sound it makes."
    (Adam Bradley,
    Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop. BasicCivitas, 2009)

MORE INFORMATIONS mentioned by linguists:

Some authors expresses their appreciation of onomatopoeia directly in their poems, and some linguists used their own ways to clarify the meaning and use of onomatopoeia. Authority’s work may open another door for us to look into them:
  • "Onomatopoeia every time I see ya
    My senses tell me hubba
    And I just can't disagree.
    I get a feeling in my heart that I can't describe. . . .

    It's sort of whack, whir, wheeze, whine
    Sputter, splat, squirt, scrape
    Clink, clank, clunk, clatter
    Crash, bang, beep, buzz
    Ring, rip, roar, retch
    Twang, toot, tinkle, thud
    Pop, plop, plunk, pow
    Snort, snuck, sniff, smack
    Screech, splash, squish, squeak
    Jingle, rattle, squeal, boing
    Honk, hoot, hack, belch."
    (Todd Rundgren, "Onomatopoeia")

  • "I have a new book, 'Batman: Cacophony.' Batman faces off against a character called Onomatopoeia.
His shtick is that he doesn't speak; he just mimics the noises you can print in comic books."
(Kevin Smith,
Newsweek, Oct. 27, 2008)

  • "Bang! went the pistol,
    Crash! went the window
    Ouch! went the son of a gun.
    I don't want to see ya
    Speaking in a foreign tongue."
    (John Prine, "Onomatopoeia")

"The writer who wants to write 'fast' has many choices. Her hero can bolt, dash, hurry or hustle."
(James Kilpatrick, "Listening to What We Write." The Columbus Dispatch, Aug. 1, 2007)

  • "He saw nothing and heard nothing but he could feel his heart pounding and then he heard the clack on stone and the leaping, dropping clicks of a small rock falling."
    (Ernest Hemingway,
    For Whom the Bell Tolls)

  • "It went zip when it moved and bop when it stopped,
    whirr when it stood still.
    I never knew just what it was and I guess I never will."
    (Tom Paxton, "The Marvelous Toy")

  • "I like the word geezer, a descriptive sound, almost onomatopoeia, and also coot, codger, biddy, battleaxe, and most of the other words for old farts."
    (Garrison Keillor)

Let's look at an interesting conversation happened between two characters:
  • Russian Negotiator: Why must every American president bound out of an automobile like as at a yacht club while in comparison our leader looks like . . . I don't even know what word is.
    Sam Seaborn: Frumpy?
    Russian Negotiator: I don't know what "frumpy" is but onomatopoetically sounds right.
    Sam Seaborn: It's hard not to like a guy who doesn't know frumpy but knows onomatopoeia.
    (Ian McShane and Rob Lowe in "Enemies Foreign and Domestic." The West Wing, 2002)

Onomatopoeia in jokes&poems

Onomatopoeia can be used as a linguistic divice in many type of writings including jokes.Le't look at the examples.

What about the joke:
"Knock-knock Who's there?


Boo who?

Don't cry, I was only joking."
Onomatopoeia always acess to direct hearings so it tends to be understandable and easy to memorized.

Onomatopoeia is also widely used by poets in their poems.For example, in the last lines of Sir Alfred Tennyson's poem "Come Down, O Maid", m and n sounds produce an atmosphere of murmuring insects.

Examples of onomatopoeia are commonly found in poems and nursery rhymes written especially for children. Onomatopoeic words produce strong images that can both delight and amuse kids when listening to their parents read poetry.Some examples of onomatopoeia poems for children are:

Baa Baa Black Sheep
Old Macdonald(3)

Both of these poems use onomatopoeic representations of animal noises to entertain. There are many other examples of onomatopoeia found in kid's poetry, see if you can hear them next time you listen to a nursery rhyme.


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onomatopoeia
  2. http://www.examples-of-onomatopoeia.com/
  3. http://www.examples-of-onomatopoeia.com/
  4. http://library.thinkquest.org/J0112392/omomatopoea.html
  5. http://seek.hzu.edu.cn/detail.htm?303183
  6. http://tisc.cfau.edu.cn/yanjiushengyuandi/P05.html
  7. http://www.crazyenglish.org/xuexi/cihui/2009/0311/46925.html
  8. http://www.doc88.com/p-04566329667.html


  1. Derek Abbott's Animal Noise Page
  2. BBC Radio 4 show discussing animal noises
  3. Tutorial on Drawing Onomatopoeia for Comics and Cartoons (using fonts)
  4. WrittenSound, onomatopoeic word list
  5. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/onomatopoeia
  6. http://emuch.net/journal/article.php?id=CJFDTotal-SZZY200703009

  7. http://www.crazyenglish.org/xuexi/cihui/2009/0311/46925.html
  8. (For more examples of onomatopoeia.)
  9. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/hqsj/shbt/2011-04-15/content_2314935.html
  10. (For Chinese onomatopoeia information.)