Onomatopoeia definition: An onomatopoeia a word whose sound imitates its meaning. An onomatopoeia is a literary device.
What is Onomatopoeia?
What is an onomatopoeia? When a pronounced word sounds like the sound the word means, it is called an onomatopoeia.
This concept is best understood through example.
Examples of Onomatopoeia:
Here, when the word “buzz” is pronounced, it sounds like a buzz.
Other examples: stomp, clap, snap
All of these terms roughly sound like their meaning. When pronounced, “stomp” sounds like a stomp; “clap” sound like a clap; “snap” sound like a snap.
Onomatopoeias are frequently used in poetry as a way to create sound interest and double meaning.
Modern Examples of Onomatopoeia
Onomatopoeias are used in everyday language even though their purpose may not be for literary effect.
List of Common Onomatopoeia Examples:
- bark (as a dog)
- meow (as a cat)
- hiss (as a snake)
When these words are pronounced, they sound like their meaning.
The Function of Onomatopoeia
Onomatopoeias are used to express sound and meaning, giving them a dual purpose. English speakers frequently use onomatopoeias in daily language, but onomatopoeias are also a strong literary tool for writers, specifically for poets.
When a writer includes an onomatopoeia, he does not need to write any additional terms to express sound or meaning.
Let’s look further at this example:
When a writer uses this term, he can simply state the word and the sound is included in the meaning.
He does not need to say: “The sound of the champagne opening made a noise like pop.”
Instead he can simply say, “Pop!” and the audience will understand the sound.
This makes writing more efficient, clear, and concise.
How Onomatopoeia is Used in Literature
Since using onomatopoeia makes writing more efficient, clear, and concise, it is a favorite tool for poets who use limited words to make a significant impact.
Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Bells,” utilizes onomatopoeia to reflect the sound he wants to describe. Here, the onomatopoeias also help to create tone and mood.
Here are excerpted lines from Part I of “The Bells:”
“How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle” (4)
“To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells” (11)
“From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.” (14)
The onomatopoeias “tinkle,” “tintinnabulation,” “jingling,” and “tinkling” reflect Poe’s purpose and create an effect as he describes the bells. The audience can “hear” the bells ringing as Poe uses onomatopoeia to set the mood for the poem.
Summary: What Does Onomatopoeia Mean?
Define Onomatopoeia: In summary, an onomatopoeia:
- is a literary device that sounds like its meaning
- is often used in everyday language
- is very effective in poetry