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Onomatopoeia | Definition, Spelling & Examples

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Onomatopoeia refers to both the process of creating words that imitate the sounds they represent and the words themselves (e.g., the “buzz” of a bee). This word is often incorrectly spelled as “onomonopoia.” 

Onomatopoeia is frequently found in creative writing, like children’s books, comic books, and stories, to help provide vivid imagery and enhance the reader’s visualization of the text. 

Additionally, onomatopoeia is an ever-evolving and expanding part of language. There are many English words used in everyday conversations that started off strictly as onomatopoeia but eventually became less directly associated with their sound-based origins and became words with distinct meanings and uses (e.g., “cliché” and “cough”). 

Onomatopoeia examples

Bang (a sudden loud or sharp noise)

Crunch (the sound of someone chewing something hard)

Hiss (the sound made by snakes or the escaping of steam or air)

Sizzle (the sound of something being fried or grilled)

Tick tock (the sound made by an old-fashioned clock or watch)

Onomatopoeia meaning

“Onomatopoeia” is defined as both the “creation of words that resemble the sounds they represent” and “words created using onomatopoeia.” Simply put, “onomatopoeia” refers to the process of forming these words and the words themselves. 

Visual shows examples of onomatopoeia: pop, boom, honk, crack.
Onomatopoeia helps add vivid imagery to your writing.

Examples of onomatopoeia include “ha-ha” (which mimics the sound of laughter), “meow” (which imitates the sound a cat makes), and “boom” (which resembles the sound of an explosion). 

It’s important to note that onomatopoeia is not unique to English; many languages incorporate onomatopoeia. However, the spelling of words used to imitate the sound being referred to varies based on linguistics. For example, in English, “woof woof” represents the bark of a dog, but it’s “guau guau” in Spanish, “wuff wuff” in German, and “bau bau” in Italian. 

Examples: Using “onomatopoeia” in a sentence

Children’s authors excel at onomatopoeia, creating words like “splish-splash” to mimic the sound of water splashing.

The book is filled with onomatopoeia like “bam,” “pow,” and “bang!”

The only word I got wrong on the quiz was onomatopoeia; I spelled it as “onomonopia.”

How to pronounce onomatopoeia 

Not only is “onomatopoeia” hard to spell, but it’s also difficult to pronounce. This word is often misspelled as “onomonopia” and mispronounced as “aw-no-maw-no-pee-a.” However, the correct pronunciation is “aw-nuh-maa-tuh-pee-uh” (/ˌɑnəˌmætəˈpiːə/).

Examples: Onomatopoeia vs onomonopia

❌ Today’s assignment required us to write a short story that used onomonopia.

✅ Today’s assignment required us to write a short story that used onomatopoeia.

Onomatopoeia examples

Onomatopoeia is sometimes colloquially referred to as “sound words.” There are countless examples of onomatopoeia in English, representing various types of sounds. 

Animal sounds

Baa (the sound made by a sheep)

Chirp (the sound made by small birds)

Gobble (the sound made by turkeys)

Quack (the sound made by ducks)

Oink (the sound made by pigs)

Human sounds

Cough (replicates the sound of someone sharply expelling air from their lungs through their mouth)

Gasp (replicates the sound of someone suddenly inhaling air as a result of shock or surprise)

Hum (replicates the sound of someone vocalizing a continuous murmur with closed lips)

Sigh (replicates the sound of someone exhaling deeply)

Wheeze (replicates the sound of labored breathing)

Machine sounds

Beep (the sound of a machine emitting a single, short tone)

Click (the sound of something being pressed and released quickly, like keys on a keyboard)

Ding (the sound of a bell or chime, such as those heard with microwaves or doorbells)

Whir (the sound of something spinning quickly, like the fan of a computer)

Zap (the sound of a sudden electrical discharge, like that of a toy laser gun)

Nature sounds

Boom (the sound of thunder)

Crackle (the sound of fire burning)

Pitter-patter (the sound of raindrops hitting a surface, like a roof or window)

Rustle (the sound of plants or leaves moving softly and against each other)

Whistle (the sound of high-speed winds)

Do you want to improve your business emails, learn the difference between commonly confused words, or strengthen your understanding of English grammar? Check out the articles below!


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