Onomatopoeia: A Vibrant Figure of Speech

Isn’t it interesting that there are some words that sounds similar as the sound they are referring to? Yes, there are such words, these are known as Onomatopoeic words.

What do you know about onomatopoeia?

It is a term come from Greek, means ‘ word-making ‘ or ‘name-making ‘. Its use recorded first in 16th century. It is one of the Figures of Speech.  “The onomatopoeic words are for emphasis and used to describe the sound of other suggesting words.

We hear their pronunciation resemble the sound that we are describing or mentioning “. Or ” the words that are similar to the sound they are indicating “The sounds can either be produced by human, animal or any other living or non- living things. The onomatopoeic words seem to be sounds itself.

Onomatopoeia definition and importance

It is a formation of words that are created by the phonetic imitation of the sounds of words that it resembles, suggests, or describes. A large number of birds names are formed by it. They can be different in different languages.

The animal’s noises are the basis of this technique. In this technique writers give a name to anything or action by the use of vocal imitation of sounds that it suggests. In English language it is used from the start of a literature it is found in Anglo Saxon literature, Medieval literature, Elizabethan and literature and so on.


Onomatopoeia; a creative and expressive magic tool commonly used in language and literature. It is applied to create sensory experiences and also for vivid writing. It is a term of linguistics that refers to the words that imitate sounds which are associated with the objects of description. For example, “buzz” sound is used for bees and “moo” or “boom” for the sounds of cows in different cultures. Actually, it is used for the sounds of animals but it also adds aural and imaginative appealing beauty to communication which is soothing to the ears. It adds richness in expressions. So, it is used in poetry, comic books and everyday talk. It is an art of mimicking real life sounds which creates an amazing symphony of expressions on paper. It works like a bridge between language and experiences by dynamic sensory richness.

The Bow- Wow theory of language tells us the origin of language and explains that language is originated by imitating the sounds of the words. It is not only used in English but it is also used in Italian, Spanish, modern Greek, Hindi and many other languages as well. A so formed word by the imitation of sound is onomatopoeic word.

Examples of onomatopoeia

There’s wide range of examples for it, that we can see and observe in everyday life. e.g.

As the sound cat produce is “meow” and the word we use to describe this sound is also “meow”.

Many other examples of it include the sounds ‘hiss’ produced by snake, ‘beep- beep’ of car horn, ‘Moo’ by cow, ‘ tik tik ‘by clock, roaring ‘of lion,’ oink oink ‘ by pig etc.

Examples in sentences 

1. The child got scared by roaring of lion.

 2.  The girls are mumbling in class.

Purpose behind using onomatopoeia

Use of it or onomatopoeic words enriches the written material and highlights its effects. Reading such words creates a scene or image in readers mind and they feel as they are actually experiencing it and hearing the sounds in real. It helps readers for more clear understanding. e.g.  as if we read the words of bird’s sound as chirping, caw caw, Koo etc. Our mind creates a beautiful scenery of nature.

Examples of onomatopoeia in poetry 

It has great value in literature such as in poetry, prose, play, and novels, to give aesthetic sense. It makes the description more powerful and vivid by giving a sense of reality as reader assumes hearing the sounds while reading.

Allen Edger Poe’s poem ‘the Bells’ shows the use of onomatopoeic words. The lines,

“How they clang, and clash, and roar”

“What a horror they outpour”

In these lines the words clang, clash, roar create image of some fierce alarming sounds produced by bells. Another example is from Shel Silverstein’s poem ” Noise Days” in which words like screech, scream, Buzz, clang, sneeze, are onomatopoeic words.

Examples in Linguistics

Onomatopoeia has crossed the boundaries of language and Cultural difference. Different languages have different words to represent but imitation is same all over the world. e.g. the sound dog makes is described by different words in different languages as bhao Bhao, wao wao , woof woof ,  wan wan, Bau Bau  , but the essence of sound is similar.

Examples in comic book and advertisement

It’s extensively used in comic books and advertisement. The sounds of Boom, Clash, Clang bring action sense. And the sound like ‘ crunching while eating crispy snakes are used for advertisement purpose.

Types of onomatopoeia

On the basis of production, onomatopoeic words can be four types.

 1. Actual words that make real sound.

 2. Actual words that provoke essence the real sound.

 3. Words that are made to imitate exact sound.

 4.  Combination of letters that   resembles some kind of sound.


Onomatopoeia is not just a figure of speech. As a rhetorical device it plays a valuable role in writing for making it attractive. It builds a connection between mind and language. Thus, it is an important chunk of our communication. And the most interesting thing is that we can create onomatopoeic words by own self.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

It is an important figure speech it is used to imitates the sounds of the words that it represents. For example, “buzz “,”hiss”, “bang”, “sizzle” and etc.

It gives sensory appeal and vividness to language. It is used to make language expressive and applied to engage the readers. Actually, it can create direct link between the sounds and the words which these are going to describe. In this way it enhances a language.

Yes, it is used in literature to make it more immersive for reading experience and also for beauty.

It is more common in informal but creative writing. It can also be used in formal writing to add emphasis.

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