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noun on·o·mato·poe·ia \ˌä-nə-ˌmä-tə-ˈpē-ə, -ˌma-\

Simple Definition of onomatopoeia

  • : the creation of words that imitate natural sounds

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of onomatopoeia

  1. 1 :  the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (as buzz, hiss)

  2. 2 :  the use of words whose sound suggests the sense

onomatopoeic play \-ˈpē-ik\ or onomatopoetic play \-pō-ˈe-tik\ adjective
onomatopoeically play \-ˈpē-ə-k(ə-)lē\ or onomatopoetically play \-pō-ˈe-ti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Examples of onomatopoeia in a sentence

  1. The term hiccup is an example of onomatopoeia … —Fred Cicetti, Montague Reporter, 6 Mar. 2008

  2. You might think it was an onomatopoeia of the sound a Frisbee makes as it moves through the air, but the name has been attributed for years to the Frisbie Pie Company of Bridgeport, Conn., which went out of business in 1958. —Mark Danna, Sports Illustrated, 11 May 1987

  3. Buzz and hiss are examples of onomatopoeia.

Did You Know?

Onomatopoeia came into English via Late Latin and ultimately traces back to Greek onoma, meaning "name," and poiein, meaning "to make." ("Onoma" can be found in such terms as "onomastics," which refers to the study of proper names and their origins, while "poiein" gave us such words as "poem" and "poet.") English speakers have only used the word onomatopoeia since the mid-1500s, but people have been creating words from the sounds heard around them for much longer. In fact, the presence of so many imitative words in language spawned the linguistic Bowwow Theory, which postulates that language originated in imitation of natural sounds.

Origin of onomatopoeia

Late Latin, from Greek onomatopoiia, from onomat-, onoma name + poiein to make — more at poet

First Known Use: circa 1577

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms

ONOMATOPOEIA Defined for Kids


noun on·o·mato·poe·ia \ˌä-nə-ˌma-tə-ˈpē-ə\

Definition of onomatopoeia for Students

  1. :  the forming of a word (as “buzz” or “hiss”) in imitation of a natural sound

Learn More about onomatopoeia

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