onomatopoeia n : using words that imitate the sound they denote
EtymologyFrom ὀνοματοποιία (onomatopoiia) "the coining of a word in imitation of a sound", from ονοματοποιέω (onomatopoieo) "to coin names", from (onoma) "name" + (poieo) "to make, to do, to produce".
- a RP /ˌɒnəˌmætə'piə/, /%Qn@%m
Onomatopoeia (occasionally spelled onomateopoeia or onomatopœia, from Greek ονοματοποιία) is a word or a grouping of words that imitates the sound it is describing, suggesting its source object, such as "click," "bunk", "clang," "buzz," or animal noises such as "oink", "slurp", or "meow". The word is a synthesis of the Greek words όνομα (onoma, = "name") and ποιέω (poieō, = "I make" or "I do") thus it essentially means "name creation", although it makes more sense combining "name" and "I do", meaning it is named (and spelled) as it sounds (e.g. quack, bang, etc.).
Variations in onomatopoeia between languagesOnomatopoeic words exist in every language, although they are different in each. For example:
Cannon firing or gun shot
- In Arabic, bom, bov
- In Chinese, Mandarin, cannon firing - peng! (嘭 or 砰), gun firing - Ping, Pang or Pa (乒 or 啪) machine gun - da da da... (嗒嗒嗒)
- In Danish, bang, bum
- In Dutch, cannon firing - bang, gun firing - pang, machine gun - bratatata
- In English, bang, boom, or pow
- in Estonian, põmm
- In Finnish, pum: generally for all gunfire and explosions
- In French, pan: a gun or cannon firing
- In German, peng or päng: a pistol shot
- In Greek, bam, (μπαμ)
- In Hungarian bumm
- In Italian, bum
- In Icelandic, búmm or bamm
- In Lithuanian, bumpt
- In Spanish, pum
- In Swedish, pang: a gun shot
- In Turkish, bam: a gun shot or bom: a cannon firing
- In Hebrew, bum (בום)
- In Arabic, miao
- In Bengali: মিউ মিউ miu miu
- In Catalan, meu
- In Chinese, Cantonese, mēu-mēu (喵喵)
- In Chinese, Mandarin, miāo miāo (喵喵)
- In Danish, mjau
- In Dutch, miauw
- In English, meow, miaow (UK), or mew
- In Estonian, mjäu, njäu
- In French, miaou
- In Finnish, miau
- In German, miau
- In Greek, niau, (νιάου)
- In Hungarian miaú, nyau
- In Italian, miao miao
- In Japanese, nya (にゃあ)
- In Korean, yaong ()
- In Lithuanian, miau
- In Russian, myau (мяу)
- In Spanish, miau
- In Swedish, mjau
- In Turkish, miyav
- In Filipino, ngyaw
- In Portuguese, miau
- In Hebrew, miaw (מיאו)
- In Arabic, bom , trakh
- In Bengali: ঠাস ṭhash ঠুস ṭhush ধুম dhum ধাম dham
- In Chinese, Cantonese, bìhng-līng baang-làahng (乒鈴嘭唥)
- In Chinese, Mandarin, larger objects crashing, buildings falling down or bigger bombs detonating - Hong (轰); describing glass shattering or metal objects falling to ground - kuang-dang (哐当) or kuang-lang (哐啷)
- In English: crash
- In Finnish: ryskis
- In French, bing or bang or boum
- In German, rums or bums
- In Gilbertese. beeku: a collision.
- In Haitian Creole, bip: the sound of a collision (eg. a car crash).
- In Korean : tock tock: the equivalent of bang bang in English.
- In Latin, tuxtax was the equivalent of bam or whack and was meant to imitate the sound of blows landing.
- In Lithuanian, bumpt
- In Malay, gedebam-gedebum
- In Turkish, güm
- In Hebrew, bum, trakh (בום, טראח)
- In Arabic, qa qa
- In Bengali: কা কা ka ka
- In Chinese, Mandarin, ya-ya (哑哑) (哑 means "mute")
- In Danish, kra kra
- In Dutch, ka ka
- In English, caw caw
- In Finnish, kraa kraa
- In French, crôa crôa
- In German, krah krah
- In Greek, kra kra, (κρα κρα)
- In Hungarian kár kár
- In Japanese, kaa kaa, gaa gaa, ahoo ahoo
- In Lithuanian, kar kar
- In Russian, karr karr (кар-кар)
- In Swedish, kra kra
- In Turkish, gaak gaak
- In Tamil, kha-kha
- In Hebrew, kra kra (קְרה קְרה).
- In Arabic, haw haw
- In Bengali: ঘেউ ঘেউ gheu gheu, ভেউ ভেউ bheu bheu, ভউ ভউ bhou bhou
- In Bulgarian, bow bow
- In Catalan, bup bup
- In Chinese, Cantonese, wōu-wōu (㕵㕵)
- In Chinese, Mandarin, wāng wāng (汪汪)
- In Danish, vuf vuf, vov vov, bjæf bjæf
- In Dutch, waf waf, woef woef
- In English, woof woof, arf arf
- In Estonian, auh auh
- In French, ouaf ouaf
- In Finnish hau hau
- In German, wau wau
- In Greek, gav gav (γαβ γαβ)
- In Hungarian vau vau
- In Italian, bau bau
- In Japanese, wan wan (わんわん)
- In Korean, meong meong ()
- In Lithuanian , au au
- In Romanian, ham ham
- In Russian, gaf gaf ()
- In Spanish, guau guau
- In Swedish, vov vov, voff voff
- In Turkish, hav hav
- In Filipino, kaw kaw
- In Tamil, vovw-vovw
- In Portuguese, au-au
- In Hebrew, haw haw, hav hav (האו האו, הב הב)
- In Ancient Greek, brekekekex koax koax
- In Modern Greek, koax koax, (Κουάξ Κουάξ)
- In Bengali: মক মক môk môk, কট কট kôṭ kôṭ
- In Chinese, Mandarin: guā guā (呱呱) (The Chinese onomatopoeic signs usually feature a "口" (mouth, oral) part on its left)
- In Danish: kvæk kvæk
- In American English, ribbet ribbet
- In Estonian krooks krooks
- In Finnish kurr kurr
- In French, croac croac
- In Galician, cro cro
- In German, quak quak
- In Italian, cra cra
- In Japanese, kero kero (けろけろ)
- In Korean, gaegool gaegool ()
- In Lithuanian, kva kva
- In Russian, qvah qvah
- In Spanish, croac croac
- In Swedish, kvack kvack, ko ack ack ack
- In Turkish, vrak vrak
- In Filipino, kokak kokak
- In Hungarian brekeke, brekk brekk
- In Hebrew, kwwa kwwa (קווה קווה)
- In Arabic, bom bom
- In Bengali: দুরদুর durdur, দুড়দুড় duṛduṛ
- In Chinese, Cantonese - bìhng-bìhng (砰砰)
- In Chinese, Mandarin, slightly excited - tong-tong (嗵嗵), excited - peng-peng (砰砰)
- In Dutch, boem boem
- In English lub, dub
- In Estonian, tuks tuks
- In Hindi daḍak (pronounced /ˈd̪əɖək/) and Urdu dhakdhak: a person's heartbeat, indicative of the sound of one beat.
- In Japanese, doki doki (ドキドキ): the (speeding up of the) beating of a heart (and thus excitement).
- In Korean, doogeun doogeun ()
- In Lithuanian, tuk tuk
- In Tamil, lappu-tappu
- In Hebrew, bum-búm (בום-בום).
- In Swedish, dunk, dunk
- In Turkish, dup dup
- In Russian, "tuk-tuk" (тук-тук)
- In Arabic, mwa
- In Danish, møs
- in Dutch, smak
- In English: smooch
- In Bengali: চুমা chuma (noun)
- In Chinese, Mandarin: boh (啵) (This word is a modern creation)
- In German: schmatz
- In Greek: ma or smats, (μα or σματς)
- In Hungarian: cupp
- In Korean: zzohk
- In Malayalam, umma: the sound of a kiss.
- In Russian, chmok (чмок)
- In Japanese, chuu
- In Filipino, tsup or mwah
- In Spanish, mua
- In Turkish, muck
- In Hebrew, mwa (מואה).
- In Arabic, kuku kukuku
- In Bulgarian, kukurigu (кукуригу)
- In Chinese, Mandarin, Gu Gu Gu! 咕咕咕
- In Danish, kykkeliky
- In Dutch, kukeleku
- In French, cocorico
- In English, cock a doodle doo
- In Finnish, kukkokiekuu
- In German, kikeriki
- In Greek, kikiriku, (κικιρίκου)
- In Hungarian kukurikú
- In Italian, chicchirichi
- In Lithuanian, kakarykū
- In Romanian, cucurigu
- In Russian, koo-ka-re-koo
- In Spanish, quiquiriquí or quiquiriquiquí or cocoricó
- In Swedish, kuckeliku
- In Turkish, ü-ürü-üüü
- In Filipino, titilaok
- In Tamil, kokkara-ko-ko
- In Hebrew, kúku ríku (קוקוריקו)
- In Arabic, atchu
- In Bengali, হাচি hachi (noun)
- In Chinese, Cantonese, hāt-chī (乞嗤)
- In Chinese, Mandarin, ah-qiu! (啊嚏)
- In Danish, Atju!
- In Dutch, Hatsjoe!
- In English, Achoo!
- In Estonian, Atsihh!
- In French, Atchoum
- In German, Hatschi!
- In Greek, apsiou!, αψιου!
- In Hungarian, Hapci!
- In Icelandic, Atsjú!
- In Italian, etciuu
- in Japanese, hakushon! ()
- In Korean, cool cool ()
- In Lithuanian, apčiū
- In Russian, Aptschee! (Апчхи)
- In Spanish, ¡Achu! more frequent is ¡Achís!
- In Turkish, hapşu
- In Filipino, Atsing!
- In Hebrew, apchi! (!אפצ'י).
- In Bengali: টুপ টুপ ṭup ṭup
- In Chinese, Cantonese, dihk-dihk (滴滴)
- In Chinese, Mandarin, di-da (滴答) (which can also mean "the drop answers")
- In Danish, dryp dryp (dryppe is the Danish verbal equivalent), plop plop
- In Dutch, drup drup
- In English, drip drop
- In Finnish, tip tip
- In French, plic plic/ploc
- In Greek, plits plits or splats splats, πλιτς πλιτς or σπλατς σπλατς
- In Hungarian, csöp-csöp (csöpp or csepp is also the Hungarian word for "drop")
- In Russian, kap kap (кап-кап)
- In Spanish, ploc ploc; pluip pluip
- In Turkish, dıp dıp
- In Tamil, sottu-sottu
- In Traditional Chinese, 滴滴 (which means "drop drop")
- In Hebrew, plup (פלופ), tif taf (טיף טף).
- In Bengali: ভোঁ bhõ, শন শন shôn shôn, ঝির ঝির jhir jhir
- In Chinese, Mandarin, shiao-shiao (萧萧), Slightly strong wind - hu-hu (呼呼), Rapid/chilly wind - sou-sou (嗖嗖) (萧 means "dreary", 呼 means "shout (verb)")
- In Japanese, byuu byuu, pyuu pyuu, zawa zawa, soyo soyo
- In Vietnamese, vi vu: the sound of a gentle breeze, and vù vù: the sound of a strong wind.
Reasons for variationsSometimes onomatopoeic words can seem to have a tenuous relationship with the object they describe. Native speakers of a given language may never question the relationship, but because words for the same basic sound can differ considerably between languages, non-native speakers might be confused by the idiomatic words of another language. For example, the sound a dog makes is bow-wow (or woof-woof) in English, wau-wau in German, uau-uau in Interlingua, ouaf-ouaf in French, gaf-gaf in Russian, hav-hav in Hebrew, wan-wan or bau-bau in Japanese, ão-ão in Portuguese, guau-guau in Spanish, bau-bau in Italian, vov-vov in Danish, woef woef [as English woof] or waf waf in Dutch, wōu-wōu in Cantonese, voff-voff in Icelandic, hau-hau in Finnish and Polish, haf-haf in Czech, hav-hav (pronounced like English how-how) in Slovak, guk guk in Indonesian, bub bub in Catalan, ghav-ghav in Modern Greek, wou wou in Teso, gâu gâu in Vietnamese, vaL vaL in Tamil, wāng-wāng in Mandarin, meong meong in Korean, and hong hong in Thai.
In the case of a frog croaking, the spelling can vary because different frog species around the world make different sounds: Ancient Greek brekekekex koax koax for probably Rana ridibunda; English ribbit for species of frog found in North America; English verb "croak" for Rana temporaria.
Uses of onomatopoeiaSome other very common English-language examples include hiccup, bang, beep, and splash. Machines and their sounds are also often described with onomatopoeia, as in honk or beep-beep for the horn of an automobile, and vroom or brum for the engine. In science fiction the sounds made by laser weapons are often described as "zaps". For animal sounds, words like quack (duck), bark (dog), roar (lion) and meow (cat) are typically used in English. Some of these words are used both as nouns and as verbs.
Agglutinative languages or synthetic languages flexibly integrate onomatopoeic words into their structure. This may evolve into a new word, up to the point that it is no longer recognized as onomatopoeia. One example is English "bleat" for the sheep noise: in medieval times it was pronounced approximately as "blairt" (but without an R-component), or "blet" with the vowel drawled, which is much more accurate as onomatopoeia than the modern pronunciation.
An example of the opposite case is "cuckoo", which, due to continuous familiarity with the bird noise down the centuries, has kept approximately the same pronunciation as in Anglo-Saxon times and has not changed to having its vowels as in "furrow".
Occasionally, words for things are created from representations of the sounds these objects make. In English, for example, there is the universal fastener which is named for the onomatopoeic of the sound it makes: the zip (in the UK) or zipper (in the U.S.). Many birds are named from the onomatopoetic link with the calls they make, such as the Bobwhite quail, the killdeer, chickadee, the cuckoo, the chiffchaff, the whooping crane and the whip-poor-will. In Tamil and Malayalam, the word for crow is kaakaa. This practice is especially common in certain languages such as Māori and, therefore, in names of animals borrowed from these languages.
Advertising uses onomatopoeia as a mnemonic, so consumers will remember their products, as in Rice Krispies (US and UK) and Rice Bubbles (AU) which make a "snap, crackle, pop" when one pours on milk; or in road safety advertisements: "clunk click, every trip" (click the seatbelt on after clunking the car door closed; UK campaign) or "click, clack, front and back" (click, clack of connecting the seatbelts; AU campaign) or "click it or ticket" (click of the connecting seatbelt; US DOT campaign).
Manner imitationIn many of the world's languages, onomatopoeia-like words are used to describe phenomena apart from the purely auditive. Japanese often utilizes such words to describe feelings or figurative expressions about objects or concepts. For instance, Japanese barabara is used to reflect an object's state of disarray or separation, and shiiin is the onomatopoetic form of absolute silence (used at the time an English speaker might expect to hear the sound of crickets chirping or a pin dropping in a silent room). It is used in English as well with terms like bling, which describes the shine on things like gold, chrome or precious stones.
Onomatopoeia in pop culture
- Whaam! (1963) by Roy Lichtenstein is an early example of pop art, featuring fighter aircraft being struck by rockets with dazzling red and yellow explosions.
- Marvel Comics have trademarked two words of their own invention: thwip! , the sound of Spider-Man's web shooter, and snikt! the switchblade-sound of Wolverine's claws locking into place (which was replaced with the lesser-known schlikt during the period he was left without the adamantium covering on his bones). Marvel also uses the sound effect "bamf" to signify Nightcrawler's teleportation.
- In Doctor Who comic strips, the sound of the Tardis is represented as vworp! vworp!
- In the Garfield comic
strip and television series, there is a running gag about a
"splut," which is usually the sound of a pie hitting someone in the
- For example, Garfield once kicked Odie, but instead of 'kick' it said 'blagoonga', with Garfield remarking to Jon that Odie needs to be tuned
- In the 1960s TV series “Batman”, comic book style onomatopoeias such as wham!, pow! and crunch appear onscreen during fight scenes. This is often the subject of parody, for example in the Simpsons episode "Radioactive Man" where the onomatopoeic words are replaced with snuh!, newt! and mint! which are references to other Simpsons episodes.
- Ubisoft's XIII employed the use of comic book onomatopoeias such as bam!, boom and noooo! during gameplay for gunshots, explosions and kills, respectively. The comic-book style is apparent throughout the game and is a core theme, as the game is an adaptation of a comic book of the same name.
- The onomatopoeia that is said to be heard at a typical Disco Biscuits (a popular jamband) show is untz. This description seems to have originated from an interview with Bob Dylan, who said "I kept hearing this, untz..untz..untz..untz..(sound in the background of all the music)...fun time, though... lots of young kids with dilated pupils."
- In Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels, the name of the Houyhnhnm's is an onomatopoeia for the whinny of a horse.
- Todd Rundgren wrote a humorous song "Onomatopoeia" which uses many examples in this "Love Song". Examples in the song start out reasonable and start to get more ludicrous as the song goes on.
- The comic strip For Better or For Worse is notorious for using non-onomatopoeic verbs as onomatopoeias, such as "Scrape," to indicate a person shaving, or "Tie," to illustrate someone tying a string around a package.
- A well-known rhetorical question is "Why doesn't onomatopoeia sound like what it is?". Ian M. Banks references this in his novel Use Of Weapons, when a character claims that the word onomatopoeia is spelled "just the way it sounds!".
- Brian Preston, a popular Quizzo night host in Philadelphia used words like crash, boom, and fart to describe onomatopoeia. Unfortunately, fart is a non-onomatopoeia (although its Proto-Indo-European language ancestor perd- (compare Greek περδομαι and Avestic prd) is more realistic).
- "Kerplunk" was used in the video game Final Fantasy VIII as the name of one of the Guardian Force Cactuar's attacks. For the Guardian Force Tonberry, the humorously out of place onomatopoeia of doink! is written on-screen during its powerful knife stab attack.
- In the video game Brave Story: New Traveler, an onomatopoeia appears wherever an attack hits its target.
- The fictional Vorpal blade from the poem "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carrol goes "snicker-snack" when used.
- The January 8, 2008 comic of Ozy and Millie featured a panel in which Millie repeats the word "Splorsh" and Ozy quips "I've noticed you find Onomatopoeia extremely distracting."
- "Uhn Tiss Uhn Tiss Uhn Tiss", recorded by The Bloodhound Gang in 2005 for their "Hefty Fine" album simulated the driving beat of most popular House and Rave music styles.
- In one Captain America comic, the accidental use of the word "wank" was found hilarious by many teenagers.
- The marble game KerPlunk is an onomatopoeia for the sound of the marbles dropping when one too many sticks has been removed.
- Crystal, David (1997) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, Second Edition ISBN 0-521-55967-7
- Greek Grammar
onomatopoeia in Catalan: Onomatopeia
onomatopoeia in German: Onomatopoesie
onomatopoeia in Estonian: Onomatopöa
onomatopoeia in Spanish: Onomatopeya
onomatopoeia in Esperanto: Onomatopeo
onomatopoeia in Basque: Onomatopeia
onomatopoeia in Persian: نامآوا
onomatopoeia in French: Onomatopée
onomatopoeia in Galician: Onomatopea
onomatopoeia in Croatian: Onomatopeja
onomatopoeia in Indonesian: Onomatope
onomatopoeia in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Onomatopeia
onomatopoeia in Italian: Onomatopea
onomatopoeia in Hebrew: אונומטופיה
onomatopoeia in Georgian: ონომატოპეა
onomatopoeia in Latin: Onomatopoeia
onomatopoeia in Limburgan: Onomatopee
onomatopoeia in Macedonian: Ономатопеја
onomatopoeia in Dutch: Onomatopee
onomatopoeia in Dutch Low Saxon: Onomatopee
onomatopoeia in Japanese: 擬声語
onomatopoeia in Norwegian: Lydord
onomatopoeia in Occitan (post 1500): Onomatopèia
onomatopoeia in Polish: Onomatopeja
onomatopoeia in Portuguese: Onomatopeia
onomatopoeia in Russian: Ономатопея
onomatopoeia in Simple English: Onomatopoeia
onomatopoeia in Slovenian: Onomatopeja
onomatopoeia in Finnish: Onomatopoeettinen
onomatopoeia in Swedish: Onomatopoesi
onomatopoeia in Ukrainian: Ономатопея
onomatopoeia in Chinese: 擬聲詞