Examples of Onomatopoeia

Words that imitate the sounds or noises they refer to are examples of onomatopoeia.

At the intersection where noise meets language, we have a wonderful collection of words in English that are imitations of the sounds they represent. We hear the boom of an explosion, the roar of a jet, and the hiss of a snake. Some of these words can also function as verbs: Birds chirp, sirens blare, and cars crash. Words that are imitations of the sounds they refer to are examples of onomatopoeia.

Old MacDonald Had a Farm children's book

Examples of onomatopoeia abound in other languages too, although somewhat surprisingly, the words used to describe the same sounds are often not the same in different languages. The pig on Old MacDonald's farm, for example, says oink oink in English, but groin groin in French, grunz in German, and buu buu in Japanese. This is because sounds that are not produced by human throats can only be approximated by sounds we can pronounce, and different languages have different sounds available for forming words. Also, in the case of some animals, such as frogs, they actually do make different sounds in different parts of the world, because they are of different species.

Examples of Onomatopoeia

Here is a list of over 100 onomatopoeic words associated with noises. (Some words are shown more than once because the sounds they imitate fall under more than one category.)

Human Sounds

hum, grunt, mutter, chatter, yack or yak, blab, lisp, sneer, snicker, giggle, whimper, bawl, squeal, shriek, whoop
Nose and Mouth:
shush, whistle, smooch, cluck, smack, crunch, munch, gulp, spit, sputter, splutter, slobber, cough, sniff, sniffle, hiccup, huff, snort, snore, belch
pat, clap, slap, smack

Animal Sounds

woof, yip, yap, growl, snarl, howl
meow or miaow, mew, purr
chirp, cheep, tweet, peep, twitter, crow, squawk
buzz, chirp, hum

Vehicle Sounds

roar, hum, purr
honk, beep
Exhaust pipes:
sputter, rumble
squeal, screech

Other Sounds

boom, bang, pop
crash, bang, clash, wham, smack, whomp, whump, thump, bump
High Speed:
zoom, whoosh, swoosh, zing
zip, tap, click, clip, snip, knock, rap, bang, thwack, flap, smack, smash
creak, squeak, pop, boing, sizzle, fizzle, flap
Groups of Objects:
rustle, clack, clunk, clank, jingle, rattle, clatter
blare, shriek
ding, buzz, beep, clang
drum, throb, thump, twang, plink, plunk, bong
squish, slush, burble, gurgle, trickle, glug, splatter, squirt, fizz, plop
puff, hiss, whistle, swoosh, whoosh
buzz, hum, zap

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