When we were younger, our parents and teachers used to tell us about the different sounds that various objects and animals produce. Back then, it was all a part of a learning process to help us understand how the world works. But these days, these so-called “sounds” play an important role in speech, poetry, and other forms of literature in a number of ways.
It’s easy to recognize onomatopoeic words from a narrative, especially since the sound or rhythmic patterns made are usually familiar to us. For instance, a “meow” would be a sound that only cats make when they try to communicate. Like hyperbole expressions and various metaphor examples, this can help an author make a scene seem more realistic to an audience. And because words can often tell us what is happening, the use of onomatopoeia also helps us hear the sound of the words they reflect.
Onomatopoeia is a figurative term for a word or a group words that are used to imitate a sound produced when spoken aloud. It originates from the Greek words onem, which means “name”, and poiein, meaning “compose” or “make”. This literary device makes it seem like we can actually hear those sounds as we read through a written piece. However, keep in mind that onomatopoeia and interjections are two different concepts. While there are instances when onomatopoeic words may be used as an interjection, it’s not all the time that an interjection imitates sounds.
Poets and other writers like to use onomatopoeia to awaken a reader’s auditory senses when going through a written narrative. It’s an attempt to give sound to words, without actually “hearing” them.
Let’s take this example from a stanza of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, The Bells:
“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,
How the danger sinks and swells, –
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells,
Of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells – In the clamor and clangor of the bells!”
In the beginning of the poem, Poe portrays the sweet and innocent sound that bells produce. But as you go along the piece, you’ll notice how the poet shows how dark and sinister bells can be in real life. Through this portrayal, a reader can immediately sense the tone and mood being set by the author.
There are many onomatopoeic words that can either be a verb or a noun. Take the word “slap” for example. Not only is it a sound made from skin hitting skin, but it can also refer to the act of hitting someone with an open hand. To most people, onomatopoeia is nothing more than a sound effect that paints a vivid picture of what is happening.
The following onomatopoeia examples are grouped according to how they are used in writing and everyday speech:
Water produces a distinct sound when it comes in contact with another object. These words typically begin with sp- or dr-, while others end with -le to indicate a minor liquid effect.
The boy fell into the lake with a splash.
These are sounds that either come from the back of a speaker’s throat or directly from one’s mouth. It’s not always clear enough for a listener to understand, yet it stays audible enough for one to hear.
Ross released a loud belch from the pit of his stomach.
This is most common among silent movies, comic books, and novels, as it emphasizes the sound that resonates from a collision. It gives a reader or viewer an idea of what transpired in the given scene. It can be anything from a loud collision of metal and glass objects to a soft sound of an object hitting the ground.
Joey’s car swerved off the freeway with a screech.
Although air cannot produce noise on its own, there’s a certain sound that comes when air blows through things or when things rush through the air. It’s barely audible at times, but it’s there.
Her umbrella blew away with a swoosh of the wind.
We all like to believe that animals have their own unique language. But instead of speaking in actual words, they make unique sounds that may easily be identified even without looking for its source. Although many would argue that the origin of these animals may affect the sound they produce, we can all agree that they aren’t too difficult to distinguish nonetheless.
My pet bird won’t stop tweeting unless she gets what she wants.
Other examples of onomatopoeic words appear in song numbers and advertisements. Notice how the lyrics, “Boom, badoom, boom, boom, badoom, boom,” imitate the sound of a bass in the song Super Bass by Nicki Minaj? A lot of companies like to use them as a part of their brand slogans to develop a personal connection with their target market as well. If you encounter any trouble identifying what a given onomatopoeia means, then just ask yourself, “What does this sound like?”
It can be quite difficult to fully understand the concept of onomatopoeic words without using them in its proper context. Examples can shed light on how and why these literary devices are used in narratives and speeches. That being said, here’s a list of onomatopoeia examples used in sentences:
By referring to the given examples and sound categories of onomatopoeic words, you can better understand the entire concept of onomatopoeia in its simplest form. Using onomatopoeia is a fun and creative way to bring one’s imagination to life by capturing the sound of everyday objects and events. Although there are many more examples of onomatopoeic words that failed to make it to the list, familiarizing these examples will get you off to a great start.