Onomatopoeia are words that sound like the action they are describing. They include words like achoo, bang, boom, clap, fizz, pow, splat, tick-tock and zap. Many words used to describe animal sounds are onomatopoeia.
If you have seen the live action Batman television series from the 1960s you likely remember the fight scenes. These scenes include big words with exclamation points like Bam! and Pow! Here's a video showing the use of onomatopoeia in the Batman TV series. Sometimes the onomatopoeia words used on the show were real dictionary words (ouch, bam, crunch and biff) and sometimes they were made-up words to represent sounds (kapow, zlonk and zok).
Cartoons and comic books also make use of onomatopoeias. Marvin the Martian would often say, "There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering kaboom" when his explosives failed to detonate.
In addition to comic books, onomatopoeia are frequently used in poems, song lyrics and advertisements. Ad jingles often make use of them. Kellogg's Rice Krispies cereal would snap, crackle and pop.
You might also remember the Alka-Seltzer ad with the song that went "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz." Plop and fizz are both onomatopoeias.
Poetry Onomatopoeia Example
Edgar Allan Poe uses multiple onomatopoeias in his poem, "Bells," including tintinabulation (ringing sound), jingling and tinkling.
To the tintinabulation that so musically wellsNear the start of the "The Raven," Poe uses two onomatopoeia words - rapping and tapping.
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells—
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
Song Onomatopoeia Examples
Many pop songs make use of onomatopoeia. Melodyful has an article describing ten of these songs, including Katy Perry's "Firework" and The Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow." Katy Perry's hit makes use of the onomatopoeia "boom" with the lyrics "boom, boom, boom Even brighter than the moon, moon moon." The Black Eyed Peas song has two onomatopoeias in its title.
Onomatopoeia Word List
Here's a list of a couple dozen onomatopoeias with their meanings with some example sentences.
- Bang - a loud noise. There was a loud bang when the gun went off.
- Beep - a short duration noise. He became worried when his computer started beeping continuously.
- Blare - a loud noise. He awoke up suddenly when the alarm clock starting blaring.
- Buzz - a humming sound or bee sound. The bees were buzzing on the hot summer day.
- Chirp - the sound a bird makes. The happy bird was chirping and tweeting in the bird bath.
- Crackle - a series of short and sharp noises. The sound of the crackling fire in the fireplace was comforting.
- Gargle - to wash your mouth with a liquid. He gargled with mouthwash after brushing his teeth.
- Giggle - a type of laugh. The kids were giggling at funny squirrels chasing themselves in the backyard.
- Hiss - the sound an angry cat makes. The cat hissed at the dog.
- Howl - a loud animal cry. She shivered when she heard the giant wolf howling in the distance.
- Kaboom - the sound of an explosion.
- Knocking - to make a knocking sound. The delivery man was knocking on the door.
- Meow - the sound a cat makes. The meowing cat was very hungry.
- Moan - a sound associated with pain. The flu-ravaged old man moaned all night in his bed.
- Oink - the sound a pig makes.
- Pitter-patter - this means a series of light sounds. She could hear the pleasant pitter-patter of the rain outside.
- Rattle - to make a rattling noise. He could hear his keys rattling in his pocket as he walked.
- Shhh - be quiet or hush.
- Snarl - an angry growl. The lion snarled when the photographer tried to move closer to the pride.
- Splash - the sound of something hitting the water. The watermelon made a big splash when it hit the water.
- Splat - the sound something wet makes when it strikes a solid surface.
- Thwack - a sharp hit or blow. The bully thwacked the boy with his wet beach towel.
- Vroom - an engine sound made by a fast moving vehicle
- Whisper - to talk softly. She whispered the amazing secret in his ear so no one else could hear.
- Whiz or Whizzle - to make a whizzing sound. She was lucky the baseball just whizzed by her face and did not hit her.
- Woof - the noise a dog makes
More Onomatopoeia Resources
- Written Sound - Written Sound is an onomatopoeia dictionary. It lists over 700 onomatopoeias.
- 101 Examples of Onomatopoeia in Sentences - A list of sentences containing onomatopoeias including ow, clicked, snort, slurp, ding-dong and boing.
- Wikipedia Onomatopoeia List - Wikipedia's list organizes them by type. The list also includes animals and things named after sounds.