(grammar > articles and features > onomatopoeia)

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.

Kaboom onomatopoeia

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 wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells—
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
Near the start of the "The Raven," Poe uses two onomatopoeia words - rapping and tapping.
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.

More Onomatopoeia Resources

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