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[on-uh-mat-uh-pee-uh, ‐mah-tuh‐] /ˌɒn əˌmæt əˈpi ə, ‐ˌmɑ tə‐/
the formation of a word, as cuckoo, meow, honk, or boom, by imitation of a sound made by or associated with its referent.
a word so formed.
the use of imitative and naturally suggestive words for rhetorical, dramatic, or poetic effect.
Origin of onomatopoeia
1570-80; < Late Latin < Greek onomatopoiía making of words, equivalent to onomato- (combining form of ónoma name) + poi- (stem of poieîn to make; see poet) + -ia -ia
Related forms
onomatopoeic, onomatopoetic
[on-uh-mat-uh-poh-et-ik] /ˌɒn əˌmæt ə poʊˈɛt ɪk/ (Show IPA),
onomatopoeically, onomatopoetically, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for onomatopoetic
Historical Examples
  • In the cultural languages they recur, if at all, only in the onomatopoetic word-formations of later origin.

  • The use of onomatopoetic words, words whose sound signifies the sense, is so common that we seldom give it a thought.

    Rhymes and Meters Horatio Winslow
  • Then follows the march, expressed both in musical notes and onomatopoetic words.

    Shakespeare and Music Edward W. Naylor
  • “Literary impressionism,” which is largely the use of onomatopoetic words, is a valuable factor in the artistic short story.

  • As we know, music is a language which may delineate actual occurrences by means of onomatopoetic sounds.

    Critical & Historical Essays Edward MacDowell
  • Here belong also the onomatopoetic attempts of children, which are simply a sort of imitation.

British Dictionary definitions for onomatopoetic


the formation of words whose sound is imitative of the sound of the noise or action designated, such as hiss, buzz, and bang
the use of such words for poetic or rhetorical effect
Derived Forms
onomatopoeic, onomatopoetic (ˌɒnəˌmætəpəʊˈɛtɪk) adjective
onomatopoeically, onomatopoetically, adverb
Word Origin
C16: via Late Latin from Greek onoma name + poiein to make
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for onomatopoetic



1570s, from Late Latin onomatopoeia, from Greek onomatopoiia "the making of a name or word" (in imitation of a sound associated with the thing being named), from onomatopoios, from onoma (genitive onomatos) "word, name" (see name (n.)) + a derivative of poiein "compose, make" (see poet). Related: Onomatopoeic; onomatopoeial.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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