The Sounds of Onomatopoeia

Do you remember where and when you learned about onomatopeoia? The word itself sort of knocks you down on first hearing, and then you get exposed to a very cool concept, the idea of words that sound like what they represent.

I  went web-surfing to find examples. The obvious words were sounds animals make, like meow, woof, and oink.

In the post “Onomatopoeia Examples” at EReading Worksheets, you’ll find some onomatopoeic words used in sentences:

  • The lunch lady plopped a scoop of something on Kristen’s tray.
  • The paintball splattered against the windshield.
  • The lawyer chased after the wail of the siren.
  • Did you forget to flush the toilet? (my personal favorite)

In “Onomatopoeia” on the site Literary Devices, there are examples from literature and song lyrics:

From the poem “Come Down, O Maid,” by Alfred Lord Tennyson: “The moan of doves in immemorial elms, and murmuring of innumerable bees . . .”

From the song “The Marvelous Toy,” by Tom Paxton: “It went zip when it moved and bop when it stopped, and whirr when it stood still.”

And not to be overlooked on the same site is “A Huge List of Onomatopoeia Examples:” There you’ll find words like raspy, sizzle, belch, and swish, and citations from literature, such as this one from The Tempest, by William Shakespeare: “Sometimes a thousand twanging instruments will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices.”

Fair warning: the sites I mentioned are seductive.  I could lose an afternoon on the Literary Devices’ pages, where there must be a hundred such devices listed, ranging from ad hominem to didacticism to nemesis to verisimilitude. Each  provides a definition and good examples.

Not to leave this post without a nod to the headline, if you didn’t know the definition of onomatopoeia, what would that word sound like?

Your thoughts? Leave a comment.


“Meow” means “woof” in cat.

–George Carlin





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