How to Use Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia – Definition and Examples

Onomatopoeia is the formation of a word from the sound associated with what is named. In other words, the name of the word actually imitates the sound of the object that is denoted by the word. Since the word indicates the sound effects of the entity or concept denoted by the word, it is not difficult to guess the meaning of the word even if you hear it for the first time. Some examples of onomatopoeic words include swoosh, boom, swish, sizzle, gush, whisper, gag, cuckoo, chatter, mumble, etc.

As seen from these examples, onomatopoeic words can reflect a variety of sounds, including sounds made by nature, human and animals.

Read the sentences below and try to identify the onomatopoeic words in them.

  1. She ran outside in the drizzling rain.
  2. The car hit the wall with a loud bang.
  3. The room was so dark; all I could hear was mummers and giggles.
  4. I put some butter in the saucepan, which sizzled and sputtered.  
  5. The flowers swirled and fluttered in the wind.How to Use Onomatopoeia

Now, let us see how to use Onomatopoeia in sentences, writings, and poems.

How to Use Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia Words

First of all, learn some onomatopoeic words that will come useful in writing. Remember, even if you don’t the exact meaning of the word, the sound of the word will help you to understand its meaning.

Human sounds: giggle, gargle, murmur, whisper, growl, roar, grunt, chatter, blurt, hiccup, blabber, slurp

Animal sounds: chirp, moo, tweet, oink, neigh, baa, meow, cackle

Sounds of Water: gush, plop, sprinkle, spray, slosh, splash, squirt, drizzle, drip

Sounds of Air: swish, swoosh, whizz, flutter, lash

Sounds of Collision: boom, batter, bang, thud, screech, crash, clatter

Remember you can also make up words to imitate a sound. But whoever is reading your writing can understand the meaning of that word.

Onomatopoeia in Sentences

Always try to identify the correct word for the correct occasion. If you know the sound that is created by a particular action, this won’t be a problem. For example, if you are describing someone knocking on a door, you can use words like thud, bam, wham whereas if you are describing someone throwing a pebble on a window, you’d use words like clack, clunk, clink.

Onomatopoeia can make your writing interesting and lively. For example, look at the two sentences below.

Ex 1: 

She got up when she heard the alarm.

She was jarred awake by the screech of the alarm.

Ex 2: 

She heard loud footsteps followed by the sound of a door.

thud thud thud – she heard loud footsteps on the stairs, it was followed by the creaking sound of a door.

Onomatopeia in Poetry

Onomatopoeia is also used in poetry to make poems more effective and interesting. The following examples are taken from some well-known poems.

“Bells” by Edgar Allen Poe: 

“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,..”

“The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes:

“…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..”

When to Use Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia can make bring your writing alive, so it is used when describing something in creative writing. So it should not be used in academic writing or technical writing.

Image Courtesy: 

“CRAC w” By Fern Weirich via

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.


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