What Is Onomatopoeia?

Onomatopoeia [on-uh-mat-uh-pee-uh] it’s a word that hits your ears like a drum and makes them dance. These words are unique because they describe sounds by imitating the sound itself. They don’t just tell you what a sound is; they make you hear it. With onomatopoeia, you can capture the clacking of heels on the pavement, the rustling of leaves in the wind, or the sizzle of steak in the pan.

Although some might think onomatopoeia is only for children’s books, it’s a versatile tool that adds flavor and excitement to any writing. It can create a vivid and immersive world for your readers to explore or add a touch of humor to your writing. So, let’s dive deeper into the world of onomatopoeia, examining examples from literature and exploring the many ways you can use this powerful literary device. But first, let’s start with the basics and define precisely what onomatopoeia is (and isn’t).

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An onomatopoeia is a word that imitates the sound of the object or action it describes. The word is usually spelled and pronounced to resemble the sound it represents. All onomatopoeic words are used to describe specific sounds. 

It’s a word that sounds like the noise it describes, such as boing, gargling, clapping, zapping, and pitter-patter, among others. When these words are used in context, they can help the reader to imagine the sound being described: the boing of spring, the clap of chalkboard erasers, and the pitter-patter of raindrops falling on the pavement like tiny footsteps.

Example In The Form Of Sentences

  • I was preparing breakfast when I heard a ding-dong from the doorbell.
  • The bee buzzed right above the sweets.
  • She loves the crunchy texture of fresh icebergs.
  • The parrots fluttered their wings and flew from the cage.
  • The train emitted a “choo-choo” sound, and smoke stemmed from its chimney.
  • The old machine whirred to a halt.
  • A shiver ran down my spine when the owl hooted on an old tree.
  • The musician hummed his favorite tune, and the audience thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • The basketball flew smoothly through the net with a swoosh, winning the game.
  • Ugh, that medicine tastes awful.

The Four Types of Onomatopoeia

It has a few different variants:

  • Real words that sound like real things
  • Real words made to produce the sound of real things
  • Made-up words that sound like real things
  • A string of letters that mimic a “raw” sound

Why Writers And Poets Use Onomatopoeia?

Writers and poets use this excellent literary device to make their writing more engaging and immersive for readers. This technique uses words that imitate sounds to create a more realistic and vivid experience. Depending on the context in which it is used, it can add an emotional or humorous element to writing. Overall, onomatopoeia is a powerful tool writers and poets can use to enhance their work and make it more memorable for their audience.

Examples From Literature

1. “The moan of doves in immemorial elms,” – John Keats, Ode to a Nightingale 

2. “And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain” – Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven 

3. “The murmuring of innumerable bees” – Percy Bysshe Shelley, Hymn to Intellectual Beauty 

4. “The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard” – Robert Frost, Out, Out 

5. “The whirr of wings that clung about the roofs/ Like a huge, invisible, hovering hand” – Robert Browning, The Pied Piper of Hamelin 

6. “The wailful choir of the small gnats mourn” – John Keats, To Autumn 

7. “the soughing of the trees” – James Joyce, Ulysses

A poem Filled With Onomatopoeia

Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” is a masterpiece of onomatopoeia. Through its clever use of made-up words, the poem takes you on a thrilling adventure where a brave hero fights and defeats a terrifying monster. The vivid sound effects created by these invented words add an extra layer of excitement to the story. “Jabberwocky” is a must-read for anyone who loves imaginative and creative literature. Here’s an excerpt from the poem: 

“Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

 Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: 

All mimsy were the borogoves, 

And the mome raths outgrabe. 

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son! 

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! 

Beware the Jubjub bird and shun 

The frumious Bandersnatch!” 

He took his vorpal sword in hand: 

Long time the manxome foe he sought— 

So rested he by the Tumtum tree, 

And stood awhile in thought. 

And, as in uffish thought, he stood, 

The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, 

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, 

And burbled as it came! 

One, two! One, two! and through and through

 The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! 

He left it dead and with its head 

He went galumphing back.”


Onomatopoeia is a literary device that can add a touch of excitement to your writing and make it more engaging for readers. It helps to create a vivid world that readers can immerse themselves in or add humor to your work. You can use this device to describe sounds by imitating them, making the reader hear them. Writers and poets use this powerful tool to add an emotional or humorous element to their work. The examples from literature and the poem “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll demonstrate the versatility and power of onomatopoeia. So, why not try adding some onomatopoeic words to your writing and see how it brings it to life? Trust me, your readers will appreciate it!

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