Definition of onomatopoeia
- In comic books, when you see someone with a gun, you know it's only going off when you read the onomatopoeias.
- —Christian Marclay
- a study of the poet's onomatopoeia
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Buzz and hiss are examples of onomatopoeia.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'onomatopoeia.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
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.
: the creation of words that imitate natural sounds
Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about onomatopoeia
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subject to rapid or unexpected change
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