The word onomatopoeia comes from the combination of two Greek words, one meaning “name”, and the other meaning “I make”, so it literally means the name ( or sound) I make. It can sometimes be obvious, such as moo for a cow’s voice, or meow for a cat. Others like whisper, are slightly less obvious, which sounds soft and hushed when you say it. Likewise a gushing tap whereby gush sounds like a stream of water. There are many examples; hoot, honk, boing, sniff, retch, clank, squirt, wheeze, whine, whoosh, baa and bark are just the tip of the iceberg. Many times you can tell what an onomatopoeic word is describing based on its letter combinations. For example words related to water often begin with sp or dr; splash, sprinkle, spray, drop and drizzle. Words related to the voice are broken into two usual groups, those with a gr sound such as growl, groan and grunt, whereas sounds that come out of the mouth through the lips, teeth and tongue often begin with mu, such as murmur and mumble. Often words used to describe collisions are onomatopoeic; screech, clang, thud and thump all have the reader hearing the collision in their head. Animal sounds also often sound like the word; cuckoo, baa, neigh, moo, oink, purr, tweet, quack and various others. Onomatopoeic words try to capture a sound and bring writing alive in the reader’s imagination;
“The mud squelched between his toes, a brown sticky sludge that oozed around him.”
“Low masonry walls seemed to ooze from clefts in the earth.”
Onomatopoeia is also an awesome poetry device because it adds depth to writing.
“Yet the ear,
it fully knows,
By the twanging and the clanging,
How the danger,
ebbs and flows.”
Edgar Allan Poe


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