Next time you're alone, put your music on pause, turn the television off, shut the kids away for 5 minutes and just listen...

Will it be silence that you hear? Probably not, as wherever one happens to be, there is usually something, (something one may be quite oblivious to), making a noise in the background. And whether itโ€™s the fridge humming in the kitchen, the brakes of a nearby car screaching to an abrupt halt, or the dog whimpering pathetically, begging to be let back inside, chances are that there's a word in English to mimic each of these sounds. These weird and wonderful words are what is known as onomatopoeia.

Based on the Greek words, onoma (name) and poiea (to make), onomatopoeic words are, quite literally, words that imitate sounds. They can appear as verbs, nouns, adjectives, or simply as exclamations too. And whilst they may not be the most important things to master when tackling the English language, they are, without a doubt, one of the things that make comics and childrenโ€™s stories so entertaining, and they certainly make writing and speaking a lot more expressive and fun too.

Onomatopoeia is the formation of a word through imitation of a sound associated with that word. For example, the word buzz imitates the sound of some flying insects. And the word splash is like the sound made by something falling into water. Both buzz and splash are onomatopoeic words. Some onomatopoeic words are used for literary or poetic effect, but many are used in everyday speech.

on-o-ma-to-POE-ia (noun)

on-o-ma-to-POE-ic (adjective)

Onomatopoeic Word Lists by Category