350+ Onomatopoeia Examples for Writers (& Kids at Heart)

Looking for onomatopoeia examples so you can give your writing some extra oomph? You’ve come to the right place.

Flip to any random Batman comic page. Instantly, you’re an earwitness to a fantastical wham-bam-ka-powerful superhero fight scene, made possible by onomatopoeia!

It’s a proven literary gem that draws readers in like buzzing bees to honey.

And in this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about onomatopoeia, including:

  • Examples of onomatopoeia in classical and modern day writing (not just comics);
  • Definitions and differences between onomatopoeia and other sound-based literary devices;
  • Benefits of adding onomatopoeia’s sensory element to your words;
  • 350+ sound words that’ll immediately power-up your own writing.

Let’s get crackin’!

Onomatopoeia Examples for Writers (& Kids at Heart)

What Onomatopoeia Is (and Isn’t)

At first glance, the word ‘onomatopoeia’ is slightly intimidating:

  • How do you pronounce onomatopoeia?
  • What is onomatopoeia and how is it different from other literary devices?

So, a little groundwork:

What’s the Definition of Onomatopoeia?

Onomatopoeia is the creation of and rhetorical use of words that phonetically imitate or suggest the actual sound that they describe.

Pronounced [aa – nuh – maa – tuh – pee – uh], onomatopoeia’s etymology traces back to two words in the Greek language, which suggest its meaning:

  • ‘onoma’, meaning ‘name’, and
  • ‘poiein’, meaning ‘to make’ (poem and poet have the same origin).

As our language evolves, sometimes we create words to specifically imitate the sound they represent. It’s no surprise that onomatopoeic words are comparable across different languages, conveying similar sounds. For instance, the Spanish word for a turkey sound is ‘gluglú gluglú’, which sounds very similar to the English language interpretation of ‘gobble gobble’.

Most words that demonstrate onomatopoeia can be categorized into five groups of sounds:

  • Animal sounds (bow-wow, oink, cock-a-doodle-doo)
  • Collision or explosive sounds (boom, crash, clang)
  • Musical sounds (toot, clang, pluck)
  • Movement of water, air, or objects (puff, vroom, rustle)
  • Human sounds (sneeze, belch, cough)

There are also many animals, insects, birds, and objects onomatopoeically named for the sound they make. Here’s a short list:

  • Bobwhite
  • Chickadee
  • Cuckoo
  • Owl
  • Killdeer
  • Whippoorwill
  • Bumblebee
  • Katydid
  • Cricket
  • Zyzzyx (an insect!)
  • Flip-flops

As young children, we were first introduced to animal sounds through onomatopoeia. Words to describe animal sounds, like a dog’s bark, a cat’s meow, or cow’s moo are phonetically similar to the actual sound that the animal makes.

Animal sounds are fun sound words, but onomatopoeia rules get a little tricky when we refer to sounds made by humans.

What’s the Difference Between Onomatopoeia and Interjections?

Human words of expression like ‘wow’ and ‘oops’ are often incorrectly labeled as onomatopoeia words. The distinction here is that these one- or two-word interjections are the actual words uttered instead of an onomatopoeic word that suggests the sound of the utterance.

To illustrate, let’s compare some human interjections (typically emotionally-packed) with with their phonetically descriptive onomatopoeia counterparts:

Interjections Onomatopoeic words
ugh grunt
he he he snicker
eeek scream
hey shout

What’s the Difference Between Onomatopoeia and Other Sound-Based Literary Devices?

Alliteration, assonance, and consonance are stylistic literary devices that repeat words with similar beginning sounds, vowel sounds or consonant sounds to set a tone or create a mood.

Like your 87-year-old grandma at the Thanksgiving table, onomatopoeia is more direct. Used correctly, onomatopoeia is the most straightforward and efficient literary device to convey sounds that you want readers to “hear”.

Benefits of Using Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia engages your readers’ senses by drawing attention to sounds through the use of phonetically similar words. When you leverage literary devices and inject sensory words like onomatopoeia in your work, your words become more powerful, memorable and influential.

As a type of figurative language, onomatopoeia uses imitation to name things or describe sounds, producing a dramatic and more engaging effect on your readers.

Think of onomatopoeia as a ‘twofer’ sound descriptor. Onomatopoeia words simultaneously describe and imitate sounds with the help of their verbal pronunciation.

For example, when pronounced out loud, words like ‘beep’, ‘clack’, and ‘hiccup’ instantly suggest specific sounds – sounds you’re familiar with and related to specific actions.

Let’s observe the sound effects of onomatopoeia at work by comparing these two sentences:

  • He silenced his phone alarm as he jumped out of bed, eager to start his first day on the job.
  • He jabbed at his squawking phone as he whooshed out of bed, eager to start his first day on the job.

Onomatopoeia enables readers to better connect with the scene: to “hear” the obnoxious alarm and the young man’s finger rapidly tapping at his phone, and sense a quick flip of blankets as he hops out of bed. As a writer, onomatopoeia gives you the tools to compose an elaborate symphony of sounds that’ll stimulate your reader’s imagination.

Onomatopoeia earns bonus points too because sensory words like these make it easier for readers to remember what they’ve read. Memories start with our senses, so artfully select onomatopoeic sound words (and other sensory words) that’ll captivate your readers and make your message unforgettable.

Let’s take a look at onomatopoeia in action with some classic examples.

Examples of Onomatopoeia

Time-honored works of literary greats and poets swarm our senses with onomatopoeia.

Onomatopoeia in Literature & Poetry

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Caliban’s observations about the sounds on his island includes two onomatopoeia words:

“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometimes voices…”

In his famous poem, The Bells, American poet Edgar Allan Poe used sound words to represent diminishing tones of bells to signify the four stages of life (childhood, youth, middle-age, and death).

Onomatopoeia is prevalent throughout, but as the poem progresses the final lines of each stanza contain symbolic onomatopoeic sound words harmonious with the life stages described.

The light sound of bells in this excerpt from the first stanza signifies a carefree childhood:

“…From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.”

The second stanza continues with the joyous wedding bells of youth:

“…To the rhyming and chiming of the bells!”

Moving on, the third stanza suggests a more daunting awareness of the end of life:

“…In the clamor and clangor of the bells!”

Finally, death is represented in the fourth stanza by the sounds of somber funeral bells:

“…To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.”

Coincidentally, Mr. Poe coined the onomatopoeic word tintinnabulation in the first stanza of this poem, which suggests a familiar tinkling of bells.

But, if there’s an award for the longest onomatopoeia word, James Joyce gets the prize!

Irish novelist, James Joyce introduced ten 100+ character onomatopoeic words to describe thunder in his last book, Finnegan’s Wake. His most famous word is a hybrid of thunder-related words from many languages and represents the thunderous fall of Adam and Eve. (In this instance, the word ‘clap’ just wouldn’t have the same effect!)

“The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonner-
ronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthur-
nuk
!) of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later on
life down through all Christian minstrelsy.”

This JoyceGeek YouTube video explores origins and clarifies the pronunciation of this thunder word:

Moving into more relatable works, Robert Frost’s nostalgic admiration of the Birches uses onomatopoeia to fill our senses with the sounds of the trees as air moves through them:

“…After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel…”

In children’s poetry, Jack Prelutsky’s onomatopoeically entitled poem, Boing! Boing! Squeak! captivates young listeners and parents alike with his tale of his clamorous little visitor:

Boing! Boing! Squeak!
Boing! Boing! Squeak!
A bouncing mouse is in my house,
it’s been here for a week…

…that mouse continues bouncing
every minute of the day,
it bounces bounces bounces
but it doesn’t bounce away…”

Another adorable Prelutsky children’s poem uses sound words to activate the young listener’s sense of taste. His onomatopoeic name for delicious little morsels that beg to be eaten is Yubbazubbies:

Yubbazubbies, you are yummy,
you are succulent and sweet,
you are splendidly delicious,
quite delectable to eat,
how I smack my lips with relish
when you bump against my knees,
then nuzzle up beside me,
chirping, ‘Eat us if you please!’…”

As we shift into other genres, we’ll discover that the use of onomatopoeia is a reliable and prevalent marketing tool.

Onomatopoeia in Pop Culture

Onomatopoeia is used in all aspects of pop culture to influence and attract the senses of consumers.

Snappy Brands and Slogans

Due to its sensory appeal, onomatopoeia is often used in branding and advertising. Faced with the challenge of conveying taste to consumers, food marketing gurus carefully choose sound words to appeal to their consumers’ taste buds. Non-food marketing projects use onomatopoeia to appeal to consumers’ needs or desires (like to drive fast)!

This vintage Rice Krispies commercial is a classic example of their “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” slogan and onomatopoeically-named mascots:

You’re likely familiar with these onomatopoeic brands and slogans:

  • Google
  • Tweeting on Twitter
  • Krispy Kreme
  • Ziploc
  • Cap’n Crunch
  • Schweppes
  • Pop Tarts
  • Pop Rocks
  • Slurpee
  • Tic Tacs
  • Wham-O Toys
  • Kaboom Energy Drink
  • Zoom Video Communications
  • Alka-Seltzer’s “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz (oh what a relief it is)”
  • Mazda’s “Zoom, Zoom

Of course, onomatopoeia is extremely influential in other popular culture media like music and other forms of entertainment.

Pop-ular Music, Film and TV Shows (and Comics)

Remember the lyrics of Ylvis’ “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)” playing on repeat in your head in 2013? A big thanks goes in part to the onomatopoeia animal sounds woven into the lyrics. (Apologies for the earworm!)

Back in the 70’s, Todd Rundgren refreshed listeners on the concept of onomatopoeia with his song of the same name. The sound words in the lyrics help describe the “feeling in (his) heart”:

“…It’s sort of lub, dub, lub, dub
A sound in my head that I can’t describe
It’s sort of zoom, zip, hiccup, drip
Ding, dong, crunch, crack, bark, meow, whinnie, quack…

Contemporary artist Charli XCX sings about a different sound to her heart in the her 2014 hit, “Boom Clap” (the beat goes on and on…):

Onomatopoeia gave moviegoers clues to the sounds made by the automobile in the movie based on Ian Fleming’s 1960’s story entitled “Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang”.

The classic ‘60’s Batman TV series flashed onomatopoeia words like “Wham!”, “Pow!” and “Clunk!” during fight scenes, which paralleled the experience of reading a printed comic book.

Before we move on to onomatopoeia examples in content marketing, here’s a special onomatopoeia video for all the Batman die-hards:

Booming Communications & Content Marketing

We’ve seen how the use of onomatopoeia engages fans and consumers by engaging their senses. Content marketers connect with readers’ senses by sprinkling sound words into email subject lines to keep them interested.

Here are some clever examples that created a buzz just this month:

onomatopoeia examples email subject lines

Headers and subheads are easy onomatopoeia targets as well. The following examples were found in Smart Blogger posts:

As a writer of consumable content, it’s your mission to make it easy for your readers to cling onto your words.

And strategically using onomatopoeia words is a great way to make it happen.

The Definitive List of Onomatopoeic Words: 366 Examples of Onomatopoeia That’ll Give Your Writing Some Extra Oomph

We’ve gone over quite a few examples of onomatopoeia in this post, but we’ve merely scratched the surface.

Below, you’ll find the web’s largest list of onomatopoeia examples. Bookmark and reference them, as needed.

Animal Sounds

Arf

Baa

Bark

Bleat

Bow-wow

Cackle

Caw

Cheep

Chirp

Chirrup

Chitter

Chitter-chatter/ Chit-chat

Chitty

Cluck

Cock-a-doodle-doo

Coo

Croak

Crow

Cuckoo

Flutter

Gaggle

Gallop

Gibber

Growl

Grumble

Hee-haw

Hiss

Honk

Hoo

Hoot

Howl

Jabber

Lap

Meow

Mew

Moo

Neigh

Nicker

Oink

Peep

Pip

Purr

Quack

Ribbit

Roar

Scrabble

Screech

Snarl

Squawk

Squeak

Squeal

Tweet

Twitter

Warble

Whinny

Woof

Yap

Yelp

Yip

Collision / Explosion Sounds

Bam

Bang

Bash

Blast

Boink

Bonk

Boom

Boop

Bop

Bump

Burst

Clack

Clamor

Clangor

Clank

Clash

Clatter

Click

Clickety-clack

Clink

Crash

Crush

Explode

Kaboom

Kapow

Klunk

Knock

Pop

Pow

Punch

Shatter

Slam

Smack

Snap

Sock

Spank

Spark

Thud

Thump

Thwack

Whale

Wham

Whomp

Whump

Human Sounds

Babble

Barf

Bawl

Belch

Bellow

Blab / Blabber

Blub / Blubber

Blurt

Boohoo

Burp

Bwahaha

Chant

Chat

Chatter

Chomp

Chortle

Clap

Cough

Cringe

Croup

Crunch

Cry

Drone

Echo

Fart

Foofaraw

Garble

Gargle

Gasp

Giggle

Gnash

Gnaw

Gobble

Groan

Grump

Grunt

Guffaw

Gulp

Hack

Hiccup

Holler

Hoopla

Huff

Hum

Humph

Hush

Lisp

Mewl

Moan

Mumble

Munch

Murmur

Mutter

Nibble

Pad

Pat

Poop

Puke

Retch

Scratch

Scream

Shout

Shriek

Shush

Slap

Slobber

Smooch

Sneak

Sneer

Sneeze

Snicker

Sniff

Sniffle

Snore

Snort

Sob

Spit

Sputter

Stomp

Tap

Tattle

Tiptoe

Utter

Wail

Wallop

Whack

Wheeze

Whimper

Whine

Whisper

Whistle

Whoop

Wimper

Yack

Yadda Yadda

Yank

Yell

Zonk

Musical Sounds

Beep

Blare

Bleep

Bloop

Bong

Buzz

Chime

Clang

Ding

Ding-a-ling

Ding-dong

Dong

Drum

Gong

Jingle

Ka-ching

Knell

Oompah

Pick

Ping

Plink

Pluck

Plunk

Pong

Rat-a-tat

Ring

Throb

Ting

Tinkle

Tintinnabulation

Toot

Trill

Twang

Zing

Sounds of Movement

Blaze

Blimp

Bling

Blip

Blow

Boing

Bounce

Brouhaha

Bumble

Burble

Cha-cha

Cha-ching

Choo-choo

Chug

Clonk

Clunk

Crack

Crackle

Creak

Crinkle

Dab

Dribble

Drip

Drizzle

Fizz

Fizzle

Flap

Flash

Flick

Fling

Flip

Flip Flop

Flog

Flop

Flush

Gloop

Glug

Grind

Gurgle

Gush

Jab

Jangle

Jar

Kerplink

Kerplunk

Mash

Nuzzle

Oomph

Ooze

Paddle

Patter

Pitter

Plash

Plop

Puff

Pump

Quiver

Racket

Rap

Rattle

Rev

Rip

Rumble

Rustle

Scour

Scramble

Scrape

Scrub

Scrunch

Scuffle

Shiver

Shred

Shudder

Shuffle

Sizzle

Skip

Slash

Slick

Slither

Slop

Slosh

Slurp

Slush

Snip

Sparkle

Splash

Splat

Splatter

Sploosh

Splosh

Splutter

Sprinkle

Squelch

Squirt

Squish

Strum

Suck

Swarm

Swat

Swell

Swish

Swoop

Swoosh

Tear

Thrash

Tick

Tick Tock

Tock

Trickle

Trudge

Tug

Twinkle

Twist

Vroom

Waft

Whip

Whirl

Whirr

Whiz

Whoosh

Zap

Zigzag

Zip

Zipper

Zoom

Crush It with Onomatopoeia!

Here’s the hard truth:

Lifeless, boring content loses readers.

Boom! They’re gone in an instant.

The use of onomatopoeia and other literary devices in your writing create the captivating sensory links that your readers cling to. Of course, practice improves the effect!

And with this mega-list of onomatopoeia sound words in hand, you’re ready to bang out some sound-packed passages.

You’re gonna crush this!

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