Onomatopoeia | Definition, Characteristics, Poems, Examples in Literature

Onomatopoeia | Definition, Characteristics, Poems, Examples in Literature


Onomatopoeia Definition

Onomatopoeia is a figure in which the sounds of words echo their sense.

What is Onomatopoeia?

It is a figure in which the sound reflects the sense. In other words, here the meaning is suggested by the sound. In the following lines taken from Coleridge

“With heavy thump, a lifeless lump

They dropped down one by one.”

We get an instance of onomatopoeia, for here the words ‘thump’. ‘lump’ and dropped’ reflect the falling of a heavy thing. It should be noted that alliteration and onomatopoeia frequently go together.

Pronounce Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia could be pronounced as-


Onomatopoeia Examples

And murmuring of the innumerable bees. –Tennyson

And Niagara stuns with thundering sound. – Goldsmith

The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed. –Gray

Thou watches the last oozings, hours by hours. – Keats

The sound of the words, ‘murmuring’, ‘thundering’, ‘twittering’ and ‘oozing, it is evident, reflects their meaning.

Characteristics of Onomatopoeia

The chief characteristics of Onomatopoeia are given below:

(i) Here such words are used as can imitate (or communicate the sense of) sound.

(ii) These words are used to communicate a sound, a feeling or an idea.

Functions of Onomatopoeia

This is a figure, used chiefly for the sake of poetic diction. It is an artifice of language by which sounds are made suggestive of their senses.


(a) It cracked and growled and roared and howled

Like noises in a swound. (Coleridge)

This is an onomatopoeia.

In this figure the sounds of words reflect their sense. Here words like ‘cracked’, ‘growled’, ‘roared’ and ‘howled’ echo the sense of a sharp and loud noise.

(b) Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle

Can patter out their hasty orisons. (Owen)

This is an onomatopoeia.

In this figure the sound of a word echoes its sense.

Here such words as ‘stuttering, rattle’ and ‘patter communicates the sense of some rattling sound.

Examples of Onomatopoeia in Literature

  1. The bare black cliff clanged round him, as he based

His feet on juts of slippery crag that rang

Sharp-smitten with the dint of armed heels. [Clangorous sound] (Tennyson)

  1. Soft is the strain when zephyr gently blows

And the smooth stream in smoother number flows. (Sense of sweetness) (Pope)

  1. But when the loud surges lash the sounding store,

The horse Tough verse should like the torrent roar. (Sense of harshness)


  1. It will fame out, like shining from shook foil. (Dazzling effect) (Hopkins)
  2. Generations have trod, have trod, have trod. [Sense of weariness] (Hopkins)
  3. And all is seared with trade: bleared, smeared with toil.

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell. [Industrial pollution] (Hopkins)

  1. And the muttering grew to a grumbling

And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling

And out of the houses rats came tumbling. (Sense of confusion) (Browning)

  1. The moan of doves in immemorial elms,

And murmuring of innumerable bees. [Sense of sweet sound) (Tennyson)

  1. I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris and he. [Galloping sound) (Browning)
  2. So munch on, crunch on, take your nuncheon,

Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon ! [Munching sound) (Browning)

  1. A Deedless Alexandrine ends the song,

Which like a wounded snake drags its slow length along. (Slow motion)

  1. Most weary seemed the sea; weary the oar,

Weary the wandering fields of barren foam. [Sense of tiredness] (Tennyson)

  1. But the jingling of the guinea helps to hurt that Honour feels. (Jingling sound)


  1. And clattering flints battered with clanging hoofs. Deep ringing round) (Tennyson)
  2. Up the high hill he heaves a huge round stone. [Laboured movement] (Pope)
  3. A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch

And blue spurt of a lighted match. [Scratchy effect] (Browning)

  1. As I gain the cove with pushing prow,

And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand. (Squishy effect) (Browning)

  1. As if it dodged a water-sprite,

It plunged and tacked and veered. (Sense of useless motion)(Coleridge)

  1. I heard the water lapping on the crag,

And the long ripple washing in the reeds. (Gentle movement) (Tennyson)

  1. Then would he whistle rapidly. (The sound of the word ‘whistle’ echoes its sense.)
  2. The brook that babbles by. (The sound of the word ‘babbles’ echoes its sense.)
  3. Only the stuttering rifles rapid rattle. (The sound of ‘stuttering and rattle’ echo their senses.)

Onomatopoeia Words

  • Ahem
  • Arf
  • Arghh
  • Bang
  • Bark
  • Boo
  • Brrng
  • Bump
  • Buzz
  • Cackle
  • Chatter
  • Cheer
  • Clap
  • Clank
  • Click
  • Crackle
  • Crash
  • Crunch
  • Ding-Dong
  • Drip
  • Eek
  • Fizz
  • Flipflop
  • Growl
  • Haha
  • Hiccup
  • Honk
  • Howl
  • Hush
  • Jingle
  • Jangle
  • Knock
  • Lala
  • Meow
  • Moan
  • Moo
  • Murmur
  • Neigh
  • Oink
  • Plop
  • Poof
  • Pop
  • Pow
  • Psst
  • Quack
  • Ribbit
  • Ring
  • Roar
  • Rustle
  • Rumble
  • Shhh
  • Sizzle
  • Slap
  • Smash
  • Smack
  • Squish
  • Swoosh
  • Thud
  • Thump
  • Tick-Tock
  • Whisper
  • Whimper
  • Woof
  • Zip
  • Zoom


Onomatopoeia Poems

The Sound of Happy

What is the sound of happy?
Is it hands clapping?
Is it the thump of you heart in your chest?
Is it the zoom of the planes overhead?

Is it a good haha?
Or the absence of a boo-hoo-hoo?
What is the sound of happy to you?

Game Time
The crowd roars
over the swoosh of the ball
through the net
so loud you might miss –
the thud of it falling
to the floor.

Identify Onomatopoeia Words from the below Poems

Beach Orchestra

The waves are racing

Towards the shore

Booming crashing… more more more!

The sand is crunching beneath my feet

Boom crash crunch crunch

I march to the beat

Sandcastles toppling

Umbrellas whisking by

Storm clouds brewing

Land meets sky

Booming waves

Biting wind

Full grey clouds.

Let the storm begin.


Tick tock little clock

Tick tock little clock ticka ticka ticka toc

How can I make you stop?

How can I tell if you are clumping your hands

All around your clock face I just don’t understand

You make sounds like tring and buzz and cuckoo

Tell me little clock Oh! Excuse me.


Also Read:


water plops into pond

splish-splash downhill

warbling magpies in tree

trilling, melodic thrill

whoosh, passing breeze

flags flutter and flap

frog croaks, bird whistles

babbling bubbles from tap

Heartbeat Onomatopoeia

In English Language the sound of heartbeat varies as ‘thump thump’, ‘ba boom’, ‘ba bump’ and ‘lub-dub’. In India, it is ‘dhakdhak.’

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