[ on-uh-mat-uh-pee-uh, ‐mah-tuh‐ ]
/ ˌɒn əˌmæt əˈpi ə, ‐ˌmɑ tə‐ /
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See synonyms for: onomatopoeia / onomatopoeic / onomatopoetic on Thesaurus.com

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.


What Kind Of Words Are Onomatopoeia?

Few words are as fun to say as onomatopoeia, but what the heck does it mean?

Should you take this quiz on “shall” versus “should”? It should prove to be a quick challenge!
Question 1 of 6
Which form is used to state an obligation or duty someone has?

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

OTHER WORDS FROM onomatopoeia

on·o·mat·o·poe·ic, on·o·mat·o·po·et·ic [on-uh-mat-uh-poh-et-ik], /ˌɒn əˌmæt ə poʊˈɛt ɪk/, adjectiveon·o·mat·o·poe·i·cal·ly, on·o·mat·o·po·et·i·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What is onomatopoeia?

An onomatopoeia is the forming of a word by imitating the sound the word is referring to, as in bang, meaning “a loud, explosive sound,” and meow, meaning “the sound a cat makes.”

The words themselves are also known as onomatopoeias.

Many commonly used words are onomatopoeias. Onomatopoeias are used to give a sense of action or intensity to writing or drawings.

Why is onomatopoeia important?

CRASH! BOOM! KAPOW! OINK? Onomatopoeias are fun words that give a little pizzazz to writing or drawings.

The first records of the term onomatopoeia come from around 1570. It comes from the Greek onomatopoiía, meaning “making of words.”

Onomatopoeia has been used in many works of writing and sometimes shows up in artwork. Most onomatopoeias are words that represent sounds, such as animal calls (cows moo, birds tweet) and other noises (woosh, boom, and thump). But onomatopoeias can describe actions as well, such as poof, splash, and sizzle.

In writing, onomatopoeias are used to enhance a sentence or provide atmosphere to a scene, as in The bull crashed through the china shop. You can almost hear the china crashing in a way that you don’t in The bull ran through the china shop.

If you watch cartoons or read comic books, you have probably seen a good example of how onomatopoeia can be used to increase intensity or excitement. Whether Batman is punching the Joker with a heroic “pow!” or Daffy Duck is blowing himself up with a loud “kaboom!” onomatopoeias are providing the sound effects of our everyday lives.

Did you know ... ?

Onomatopoeia is almost cliché in superhero comic books. Comic books have also featured some truly unique onomatopoeias, such as zonk, bamf, and even vjjjwommmwwwb.

What are real life examples of onomatopoeia?

This drawing gives some examples of common onomatopoeias:

EF English Live / Shutterstock

Many people are big fans of onomatopoeia as long as they don’t actually have to spell it.

What other words are related to onomatopoeia?

Quiz yourself!

True or False?

The word bang is an example of onomatopoeia.

How to use onomatopoeia in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for onomatopoeia

/ (ˌɒnəˌmætəˈpiːə) /

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 of onomatopoeia

onomatopoeic or onomatopoetic (ˌɒnəˌmætəpəʊˈɛtɪk), adjectiveonomatopoeically or onomatopoetically, adverb

Word Origin for onomatopoeia

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