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Examples of onomatopes


A word that imitates the sound it denotes: an onomatopoeic word.

See also:


From the Latin, "to make names"

Examples and Observations:

  • "Ba-room, ba-room, ba-room, baripity, baripity, baripity, baripity--Good. His dad had the pickup going."
    (Katherine Paterson, Bridge to Terabithia, 1977)

  • "As I wandered along, the toc toc of ping pong balls drifted from an attic window."
    (E.B. White, "Walden," June 1939)

  • "lugugugubrious"
    (James Joyce, Ulysses)

  • "There went the frightened, snorting cattle, stampeding through the trees with their tails in the air like it was heel-fly time."
    (Fred Gipson, Old Yeller, 1956)

  • "Sling your knuckles on the bottoms of the happy tin pans, let your trombones ooze, and go hushahusha-hush with the slippery sand-paper."
    (Carl Sandburg, "Jazz Fantasia")

  • Bang is not a bad onomatope, but if you say it to a person ignorant of its signification, in a quiet tone of voice and apropos of nothing, he will not know what you mean."
    (W.G. Aston, "Japanese Onomatopes and the Origin of Language." Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 1894)

  • Since the late nineteenth century, linguists and literary critics have regarded onomatopes as second class citizens among words. . . . Onomatopoeia has met with four objections on linguistic grounds and one on aesthetic grounds:

    1. Onomatopes are really conventional signs, not echoes of natural signs.
    2. Even if onomatopes imitate natural sounds, they are not really non-arbitrary signs, since the language could have selected non-imitative signs instead.
    3. Onomatopes exist on the margin of language, not really as part of langue.
    4. Onomatopes do not accurately represent natural sounds.
    5. If onomatopoeia does appear in poetry, it has no artistic value, but is, rather, a dubious display of virtuosity.
    The motives underlying these objections to onomatopoeia have been twofold. First, there was opposition to the onomatopoeic theory of the origin of language, the "bow-wow" theory as Max Muller called it. Second, there was a need to defend structuralist ideology of langue as an arbitrary, autonomous semiotic system . . ..."
    (Earl R. Anderson, A Grammar of Iconism. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press, 1999)
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