Did you know that onomatopoeia came into English via Late Latin? It ultimately traces back to Greek onoma, meaning “name”, and poiein, meaning “to make”. 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. Onomatopoeia is defined as a word which imitates the natural sounds of a thing. It creates a sound effect that mimics the thing described, making the description more expressive and interesting.
What is the function of onomatopoeic words exactly? Generally, words are used to tell what is happening. Onomatopoeia, on the other hand, helps readers to hear the sounds of the words they reflect. Hence, the reader cannot help but enter the world created by the poet with the aid of these words. The beauty of onomatopoeic words lies in the fact that they are bound to have an effect on the readers’ senses, whether that effect is understood or not.
For instance, saying, “The gushing stream flows in the forest” is a more meaningful description than just saying, “The stream flows in the forest.” The reader is drawn to hear the sound of a “gushing stream,” which makes the expression more effective. Another example, “He Lay awake, listening to the unending sound of the clock on the mantelpiece”. The sentence is fine, but a little bland. A well-placed onomatopoeia can give it some punch, like “He lay awake, listening to the relentless tick-tock of the clock on the mantelpiece”.
Onomatopoeic words come in combinations, as they reflect different sounds of a single object. For example, a group of words reflecting different sounds of water are: plop, splash, gush, sprinkle, drizzle, and drip. Similarly, words like growl, giggle, grunt, murmur, blurt, and chatter denote different kinds of human voice sounds.
The next time you want people to absorb what you are describing, consider using the onomatopoeic words would be cool!