Onomatopoeia is one of the most enjoyable literary devices we encounter in our day-to-day reading adventures. It refers to words that mimic the natural sounds of the phenomena they describe, making the text more expressive, engaging, and enjoyable to read.

If you’ve ever read a comic book, you’re probably familiar with classic examples like “BANG,” “POP,” or “BOOM.” However, the range of onomatopoeic words extends far beyond comic book expressions. From words we use to describe animal sounds to the sounds of nature, machinery, and human actions, onomatopoeic words can enrich our descriptive capabilities in fascinating ways.

Without further ado, let’s dive into a lively list of onomatopoeic words, followed by their application in sentences:

  1. Buzz (sound of bees or a busy phone line)
    • The continuous buzz of the bees was both soothing and eerie.
  2. Clang (loud ringing noise, like metal being hit)
    • The pots and pans clanged loudly as they fell from the top shelf.
  3. Drip (sound of a liquid drop)
    • I could hear the drip of the leaky faucet all the way from my bedroom.
  4. Giggle (sound of light, often high-pitched, laughter)
    • The playful giggle of children echoed in the park.
  5. Hiss (sound of steam or a displeased cat)
    • The angry cat hissed at the stranger.
  6. Jingle (sound of small metal items shaking)
    • The jingle of her bracelet was a familiar sound in the quiet office.
  7. Knock (sound of a rapping or tapping, usually on a door)
    • The loud knock on the door startled everyone in the room.
  8. Murmur (sound of soft, indistinct voices)
    • The murmurs of the crowd hinted at their discontent.
  9. Pop (sound of a small explosion or burst)
    • The pop of the champagne cork signaled the beginning of the celebration.
  10. Quack (sound made by a duck)
    • The quack of a lone duck echoed across the pond.
  11. Rustle (sound of light, dry movement, like leaves or paper)
    • The rustle of pages turning could be heard as the exam started.
  12. Slam (sound of forceful impact, like a door closing hard)
    • He left the room with a slam of the door.
  13. Tick-tock (sound of a clock)
    • The tick-tock of the grandfather clock was the only sound in the silent room.
  14. Whir (sound of something spinning or buzzing quickly)
    • The whir of the fan was the only thing breaking the stillness of the hot summer day.
  15. Zip (sound of fast movement or a fastener)
    • He could hear the zip of her suitcase closing from the other room.

These examples just skim the surface of the vast reservoir of onomatopoeic words in the English language. Incorporating these words into your writing can bring your descriptions to life, making them more vivid and engaging for your readers. Enjoy adding more “pop” and “sizzle” to your language adventures with onomatopoeia!

25 famous examples of onomatopoeia from literature

It’s fascinating to see how renowned authors and poets have used onomatopoeia to add depth and sensory engagement to their works. Let’s explore some famous examples:

  1. “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
    • “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.”
    • In this opening stanza, the words “tapping” and “rapping” are used to mimic the sound of someone knocking on the door, creating a sense of anticipation and mystery.
  2. “The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe
    • “Hear the sledges with the bells – Silver bells! What a world of merriment their melody foretells! How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, In the icy air of night!”
    • The word “tinkle” imitates the chime of silver bells, immersing the reader in the celebratory scene Poe describes.
  3. “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll
    • “And, as in uffish thought he stood, The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, And burbled as it came!”
    • Carroll invents his own onomatopoeic words, “whiffling” and “burbled,” to give a distinct sound to the movements of the Jabberwocky, enhancing the fantastical atmosphere of the poem.
  4. “Sailing to Byzantium” by William Butler Yeats
    • “An aged man is but a paltry thing, A tattered coat upon a stick, unless Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress”
    • Yeats uses “clap” to imitate the sound and evoke the image of the soul joyously celebrating life, despite the ravages of age.
  5. “maggie and milly and molly and may” by E.E. Cummings
    • “maggie and milly and molly and may went down to the beach(to play one day) and maggie discovered a shell that sang so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and”
    • Cummings uses “sang” to embody the soothing sound of the sea echoing in the shell, reflecting Maggie’s moment of serene forgetfulness.
  6. “Because I could not stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson
    • “The carriage held but just ourselves – And Immortality. We slowly drove – He knew no haste…”
    • Dickinson uses “drove” to mimic the sound of the slow-moving carriage, emphasizing the unhurried nature of Death.
  7. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
    • *”The free bird leaps on the back of the wind and floats downstream till the current ends and dips his wings in the orange sun rays and dares to claim the
  8. The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe
    • “And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before…”
    • “Rustling” mirrors the sound of the curtains moving, contributing to the eerie atmosphere.
  9. “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll
    • “And, as in uffish thought he stood, the Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, came whiffling through the tulgey wood, and burbled as it came!”
    • “Whiffling” and “burbled” are nonsensical words that Carroll uses to replicate sounds, adding to the poem’s whimsical and fantastical tone.
  10. “Daffodils” by William Wordsworth
    • “Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”
    • “Fluttering” mirrors the sound and movement of the daffodils in the wind.
  11. “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
    • “The ice was here, the ice was there, the ice was all around. It cracked and growled, and roared and howled…”
    • “Cracked,” “growled,” “roared,” and “howled” echo the sounds of the ice and wind, painting a vivid and chilling image of the sea environment.
  12. “Marmion” by Sir Walter Scott
    • “And the wave’s roll would awaken the baby of three months old…”
    • “Roll” is an example of onomatopoeia, reflecting the sound of waves on a beach.
  13. “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
    • “Then the sleeping leviathan breathed out—the waters rose, the weed streamed, and the water boiled over the table rock with a roar.”
    • “Roar” echoes the sound of rushing, crashing water.
  14. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
    • “Footsteps thunked on the front porch.”
    • “Thunked” imitates the sound of heavy footsteps on a wooden porch.
  15. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston
    • “So the brother-in-law went out and cut a hickory nut tree switch and whipped Janie until she had raw places on her hips.”
    • “Whipped” suggests the sharp, quick sound of the switch slicing through the air.
  16. “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens
    • “I had heard of Miss Havisham up town—everybody for miles round had heard of Miss Havisham up town—as an immensely rich and grim lady who lived in a large and dismal house barricaded against robbers, and who led a life of seclusion.”
    • “Barricaded” hints at the sound of closing and locking doors, reinforcing the image of seclusion.
  17. “1984” by George Orwell
    • “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
    • “Striking” mirrors the sound of the clocks chiming.
  18. “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
    • “With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world…”
    • “Spitting” replicates the sound and image of the kerosene being sprayed.
  19. “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger
    • “Only, you never did catch me doing it. All you did was keep on sending me in for my showers in the locker room…”
    • “Showers” indicates the sound of water pouring down, enhancing the sense of isolation.
  20. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
    • “It was a lady, it was Miss Darcy. Her gown was of a soft white silky stuff that rustled and clung to her and was lighted with a hundred tiny diamantes.”
    • “Rustled” mimics the sound of the silky gown moving.
  21. “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville
    • “The rushing Pequod, freighted with savages, and laden with fire, and burning a corpse, and plunging into that blackness of darkness, seemed the material counterpart of her monomaniac commander’s soul.”
    • “Rushing” and “plunging” imitate the sounds of a ship cutting through the waves.
  22. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • “The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon.”
    • “Buoyed” suggests the soft sound of movement on a cushy surface.
  23. “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte
    • “The whole furniture consisted of a chair, a clothes-press, and a large oak case, with squares cut out near the top resembling coach windows.”
    • “Cut out” mimics the sound of a saw slicing through wood.

These instances from famous literary works offer excellent examples of how onomatopoeia can enhance the auditory and emotional experience of readers, making them feel more present in the narrative.

Here’s a list of 100 more examples of onomatopoeic words that mimic the sounds they represent:

  1. Whirr
  2. Creak
  3. Hiss
  4. Splash
  5. Sizzle
  6. Ping
  7. Thump
  8. Buzz
  9. Clang
  10. Plop
  11. Pop
  12. Rustle
  13. Grunt
  14. Bump
  15. Chirp
  16. Slurp
  17. Gush
  18. Slap
  19. Jingle
  20. Screech
  21. Toot
  22. Drip
  23. Clatter
  24. Hoot
  25. Rumble
  26. Squelch
  27. Crack
  28. Swish
  29. Chatter
  30. Crunch
  31. Boing
  32. Beep
  33. Gurgling
  34. Hush
  35. Flutter
  36. Zing
  37. Giggle
  38. Squawk
  39. Grumble
  40. Drumroll
  41. Zoom
  42. Huddle
  43. Tinkle
  44. Whistle
  45. Murmur
  46. Purr
  47. Wail
  48. Flutter
  49. Munch
  50. Cluck
  51. Dribble
  52. Roar
  53. Shush
  54. Stomp
  55. Whack
  56. Shuffle
  57. Sniff
  58. Swoosh
  59. Rattle
  60. Yawn
  61. Wobble
  62. Boil
  63. Gulp
  64. Jolt
  65. Squeak
  66. Squish
  67. Twang
  68. Twitch
  69. Splosh
  70. Wheeze
  71. Snarl
  72. Gobble
  73. Stomp
  74. Slurp
  75. Thud
  76. Slither
  77. Mutter
  78. Honk
  79. Wriggle
  80. Hiss
  81. Gallop
  82. Caw
  83. Rattle
  84. Puff
  85. Scorch
  86. Slump
  87. Huddle
  88. Whir
  89. Toot
  90. Stammer
  91. Fizz
  92. Swoop
  93. Clomp
  94. Tug
  95. Crackle
  96. Squawk
  97. Tinkle
  98. Flutter
  99. Gobble
  100. Mumble

These words demonstrate the variety of sounds that can be captured through onomatopoeia. Feel free to incorporate them into your writing to make it more vibrant and engaging!