An onomatopoeia is a type of figurative language in the English language.

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Onomatopoeias are words that imitate sounds. Onomatopoeias sound like the objects they represent or the sounds those objects make.

loud sound
If you slap your hand down on a table, what sound does it make?

Smack!    Bam!    Bang!    BOOM!

Words used to represent the sounds animals make are onomatopoeias.
  • cow = moo

  • duck = quack
  • dog = bark, growl, howl

  • cat = meow, hiss, purr

  • goose = honk

  • mouse = squeak

  • bird = chirp, tweet, caw, twitter

  • horse = neigh, knicker, whinny

  • owl = screech, hoo-hoo, hoot

  • chicken = cluck

  • sheep = baa

  • rooster = cock-a-doodle-doo

Here are some more onomatopoeias:
  • honkhonk

  • click

  • chop

  • tap

  • beep

  • knock-knock

  • crash

  • crackle

  • whisper

  • shhhh
  • snap

  • pop

  • ping

  • plop

  • tweet

  • twitter

  • hush

  • swish

  • screech

  • tinkle

  • pitter-patter
  • yell

  • achoo (sneeze)

  • hiccup

  • slurp

  • scratch

  • laugh

  • smack

  • zing

  • cheep

Onomatopoeias in poetry

Onomatopoeias are popular in poetry because they are very descriptive words. Onomatopoeias help readers understand by forming images in their minds.

Let us look at an onomatopoeia poem by Eve Merriam.

The poem describes water running out of a rusty spigot, or faucet. The spigot has not been turned on recently. When it is turned on, the water runs slowly at first and makes "sputtering" sounds. Then it begins running faster and splashes to the ground.

Here are some words with definitions to help you understand the poem.

  • spigot = water faucet
  • gashes = opens
  • smattering of drops = a few drops

The onomatopoeias are in red.


The rusty spigot



a splutter,

spatters a smattering of drops,

gashes wider;





finally stops sputtering

and plash!

gushes rushes splashes

clear water dashes.

Onomatopoeias in comic books

Onomatopoeias are also very common in comic books to help the reader understand the pictures and what is happening in each scene.

For example, if a man and woman are kissing, you might see the words

smack    smooch    kiss
couple kissing

If people are fighting, you might see the words

Smack!    bang    slap

If a phone is ringing, you might see

riiiiiiinnnnngggg   buzz    ring-ring-ring

When someone is sleeping, you might see

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz     snore


This was an overview of onomatopoeias. Now that you understand, it is time to practice! Get our ESL Books.

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