Onomatopoeia is a word which imitates a sound, or the the sound of the thing it represents. Here are a few easy examples: buzz, hiss, sizzle, snap, crackle, pop, clink, tinkle. Common groups of onomatopoeic words include water sounds, animal sounds, wind sounds, and descriptors for human speech. Onomatopoeia can also be created with consonance and alliteration. For example, “the serpent slithered slowly” uses repeated s-sounds to suggest a hiss, even though none of the individual words are onomatopoeic on their own.
Onomatopoeic words tend to be either good descriptors, active verbs, or both. For example, “The water gurgled down the drain” is more descriptive than “the water ran down the drain.” In addition, they can often be used as more than one part of speech. “Whisper” can be a noun or a verb; “whispering” can be a verb or an adjective.
They also engage a reader’s sense of hearing, which useful if you’re trying to help people experience a scene as they read it.
Onomatopoeia is not just an English phenomenon. It occurs in lots of other languages, as well. Many cultures, for example, have onomatopoeic words for repetitive sounds like ticking clocks and horses’ hooves. But the sounds of the words can be entirely different from language to language, because every culture translates sound into sense in its own way. If you speak a non-English language, I’d be really interested in any non-English onomatopoeic words you’d like to share on the thread today.
Onomatopoeia is a technique not to be overlooked, especially if you’re trying to create euphonic language that stimulates the senses of your audience. It’s like sound effects for your writing.
A to Z Badge by Jeremy of Being Retro