Onomatopoeia – Definition and Examples

Notice how comic books always emphasize the sound of collisions with a ‘BANG’ or ‘BOOM’? In most cases, onomatopoeia is used in print media, poetry, and literature to create a realistic effect for audiences to connect to. By resembling the sound of a given animal or thing, authors are able to awaken a reader’s auditory senses to form a unique reading experience. So in this article, we will discuss the significance of onomatopoeia in literature and other narratives.

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What is Onomatopoeia?

Onomatopoeia is a stylistic device used to imitate a given sound associated with what it is referred to. One good example is the word ‘buzz’. This word is usually associated with the sound that resonates from a swarm of bees, but these days, we can also use the word ‘buzzing’ to describe a group of people talking. You may also see parallel sentences.


The brand’s new digital campaign left the online community buzzing.

In this sentence, the term ‘buzzing’ shows how the campaign has become a talked-about topic online. Onomatopoeic words help us express our thoughts more clearly for others to understand, which is why kid-friendly onomatopoeic words are common in children’s books and nursery rhymes. One example for this would be the nursery rhyme, Old Macdonald. If you sing along to the rhyme, you’ll notice how animal sounds are repeated multiple times in each line. But keep in mind that onomatopoeia may be used differently in both speech and writing examples, depending on the message the author wishes to convey.

Onomatopoeic words can come from different categories, specifically from the sounds that animals make, the sound that people make, and other noises we hear everyday. You may also see compound sentences.

To learn more about onomatopoeia, refer to the examples that follow:

1. Onomatopoeia in Sentences

The application of onomatopoeia has become so common in our language that these have evolved into actual words that we use on a regular basis. From animal noises to the sound that resonates from everyday activities, we no longer regard them as onomatopoeic words but as a special part of our vocabulary instead. You may also see short sentences.

Listed below are a few examples of onomatopoeia in sentences:

  1. Pitterpatter rain drops are falling on our rooftop.
  2. Our teacher told Josh to shoosh, because he was making too much noise in his seat.
  3. The birds’ tweets wake me up every morning.
  4. The door creaked open like a scene from a horror movie.
  5. The jangle of my bracelets caught the professor’s attention.
  6. The tires of her car halted with an extremely loud screech.
  7. The owl hooted as me and my dog walked by.
  8. I saw Jonathan swoosh the basketball into the net.
  9. The rustle of the leaves startled me last night.
  10. If you see mom’s car in the driveway, honk your horn.
  11. The thirsty dog slurped the fresh water from his bowl.
  12. Mr. Garcia told Adrian to spit out his gum.
  13. Stephen’s three dogs woofed at the innocent mail man.
  14. I saw Chow’s car zoom past me at the highway.
  15. Gracie gently tapped her pen against the table top.
  16. The freshmen girls began squealing as the men’s basketball team walked by.
  17. He hit his head against the wall with a loud thud.
  18. Jennifer taught me how to strum a guitar.
  19. My fat dog jumped made a huge splash when he jumped into the pool.
  20. I hear the bacon sizzling in the kitchen.
  21. I’m so attracted to guys with raspy voices.
  22. Jessica murmured the answer under her breath.
  23. I think someone is knocking on your bedroom door.
  24. Randall just gulped down his first bottle of beer.
  25. Hayley groaned as she got up from bed this morning.
  26. She heard the toilet flush in the middle of the night.
  27. Derek is warming himself up in front of the crackling fire.
  28. If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!
  29. Beep me if you need me.
  30. The pots and pans fell to the floor with a clatter.

2. Onomatopoeia in Advertising and Media

Advertising, comic books, cartoon strips, and other forms of media rely heavily on sound effects to create drama. Here, onomatopoeic words work as mnemonics to create catchy phrases and punchlines for viewers and listeners to remember. This marketing strategy ensures that audiences may recognize the word or phrase and associate it with the film or brand whenever it is encountered.

  1. ‘Kablam!’ – This Nickelodeon cartoon implies a crash or collision of two objects.
  2. ‘Zowie’, ‘Wham’, ‘Zing’, ‘Bang’, ‘Blam’, ‘Boom’, ‘Whack’, ‘Zorch’, ‘Zang’, ‘Woosh’, ‘Bam’, ‘Zoom’, ‘Zap’, ‘Kazowy’, ‘Wow’, ‘Clang’, and ‘Pow’ are just some of the words that Autobot Warpath spoke in the blockbuster movie, Transformers.
  3. ‘Snap, Crackle, Pop’ – This famous slogan by Rice Crispies cereal mimics the sound of cornflakes being poured on a bowl of milk.
  4. ‘Clunk Click, every trip’ – A UK road safety campaign used this slogan to imitate the sound of a seat belt being locked in once the car door is closed.
  5. In the 1968 movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Jemimah copies the sound of the motorcar to explains the reason for naming the motorcar Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In this scene, she says, “But that’s the sound it makes. Listen. It’s saying chitty chitty, chitty chitty, chitty chitty, chitty chitty, chitty chitty, bang bang! chitty chitty…”


3. Onomatopoeia in Literature

This figurative speech is widely used in poetry and other forms of literature because of how it allows an author to convey an unusual or vivid thought. This creates an aural effect that represents the visual object being described in the statement. In some cases, authors even combine words to create an onomatopoeic effect rather than using the actual onomatopoeic words. You may also see Oxymoron – Definition and Examples

Example 1

“Flora left Franklin’s side and went to the one-armed bandits spread along one whole side of the room. From where she stood it looked like a forest of arms yanking down levers. There was a continuous clack, clack, clack of levers, then a click, click, click of tumblers coming up. Following this was a metallic poof sometimes followed by the clatter of silver dollars coming down through the funnel to land with a happy smash in the coin receptacle at the bottom of the machine.”

— (Rod Serling, “The Fever.” Stories from the Twilight Zone, 2013)

Example 2

“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, 1940)

Example 3

Hark, hark!
The watch-dogs bark!
Hark, hark! I hear
The strain of strutting chanticleer
Cry, ‘cock-a-diddle-dow!'”

— (Ariel in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Act One, scene 2)

Example 4

“Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard, He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred; Tlot tlot, tlot tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hooves, ringing clear; Tlot tlot, tlot tlot, in the distance! Were they deaf that they did not hear?”

— (Alfred Noyes, The Highwayman)

Example 5

“Hear the sledges with the bells
Silver bells! What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight,”

— (Edgar Allan Poe, The Bells)

Example 6

“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)

“Few are vampires. None flit through the mirror.
Where they flutter at evening’s a queer
Tonal hunting zone above highest C.
Insect prey at the peak of our hearing
Drone re to their detailing tee”

— (Les Murray, Bat’s Ultrasound)


Using onomatopoeia in both speech and writing is a fun way to keep your audience engaged. Like oxymoron examples and hyperbole expressions, using onomatopoeia as a figurative language allows an author to express thoughts and ideas in its vivid nature to create a real life effect. This creates clarity for audiences to fully comprehend and relate to the situation at hand. Understanding the role played by onomatopoeia in poetry and literature allows us to enhance our skills in writing to create better content for a remarkable reading experience.

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