Wednesday, August 17, 2011


[ah-nuh-maw-tuh-pee-uh. Say that fast, ten times. I dare ya.]

Even if you don't know the term, you've probably seen it in action. (Yes, I had to use Spell Check to spell it, though I did have only one letter incorrect.) Onomatopoeia is a word that evokes a SOUND, and is spelled like it sounds. These words are incredibly fun to use.

Whoosh, crash, tinkle, boom, swish, thump, clink, cuckoo, sizzle, woof.

1. Found in nursery rhymes and picture books. "Baa-baa Black Sheep," anyone?
2. Used for great effect in poems. Like the line in Sir Alfred Tennyson's poem "Come Down, O Maid": …the murmuring of innumerable bees.
3. Evokes certain moods for the reader, whether comical, tense, or easygoing.
4. Adds "audible" interest to otherwise ordinary passages in novels.

1. Your own brain: make it up. Be creative!
2. Visit the site Examples of Onomatopoeia for sound ideas if you're stuck. You can click on a letter of the alphabet and get lists of common onomatopoeic words.
3. Another good resource is Angela Ackerman's The Bookshelf Muse blogsite. She has lists of sounds under her Setting Thesaurus, for a wide variety of settings. Check out those and other great lists on her right sidebar.

Making Up Your Own
In the title of this post, I invented an onomatopoeic word: bloosh. It's spelled like it sounds. I am delighted when authors go beyond stock sound words and make up their own. It makes me smile to find them, such as in the novel I read this last week, ENTWINED by Heather Dixon. I ran across the following inventive sound words or combinations:

1. oosh eesh oosh eesh: sound of the MC's boots after falling into a river, while walking
2. thumpfwhap: someone throwing someone else against a wall in anger
3. stomp-click-stomps: sounds of the twelve princesses dancing in boots
4. psss psss psss: whispered conversation of the princesses at the dinner table
5. FFFFputputputput! --the multiple shooting of tiny cupid arrows

CAUTION: Tone and Mood
Onomatopoeic words don't always have to be silly-sounding words; Sir Alfred Tennyson's poem is a case in point. But they DO often add a playful, comical tone to a passage of writing. So beware--you wouldn't want to use a word like "bloosh" in a serious or dramatic scene unless you are trying to diffuse some tension or lighten the mood. Always consider the overall intent of a scene.

What's your favorite onomatopoeic/sound word?
Do you consciously use onomatopoeia in your writings?
Have you ever made up onomatopoeic words in your writing?
Have you visited The Bookshelf Muse and made use of Angela's helpful lists?
Have you read Heather Dixon's ENTWINED yet?


PS: I have 16 Likes on my Facebook author page and apparently need 25 total to be an Official Page. If you haven't clicked to Like me yet, please do so. Thanks a bunch! Click HERE.


  1. What's your favorite onomatopoeic/sound word? OOPH

    Do you consciously use onomatopoeia in your writings? I try not to, but I have once or twice.

    Have you ever made up onomatopoeic words in your writing? No, but now I should :D

    Have you visited The Bookshelf Muse and made use of Angela's helpful lists? No D: but I should do that too...

    Have you read Heather Dixon's ENTWINED yet? YES OMG IT WAS BEAUTIFUL

  2. Hey, Carol, this was a fun post. And thanks for the onomatopoeia site! I think my favorite example is "chortle", compliments of the Jabberwocky. That and "snicker snack".

  3. I don't think I've ever used it in my writing, but Batman comes to mind and words like boink and kaboom. :)

  4. I love those words even though I can't think of any I use a lot. But, I'm going to go check and see if I've liked your page.

  5. Thump.




    No, I haven't had the pleasure. But I don't read about princess. I've been infected by male hormones when it comes to my reading taste.

    I wish I could 'like' you, but I don't do facebook yet.

    Thanks for the onothingamagiggi site!

  6. KaaaBOOM!
    I do use them sometimes, but not often at all.

  7. My favourite sound word is click clack for heels on hard floors. Oh yes, and slurp!

  8. I think the word BLOG has a nice whiff of onomatopoeia. I imagine a thunderous demi-god named BLöGG pronouncing wisdom from on high, and everyone cowering. Blog! Oofh!

    How about Twitter, for that matter? Flimsy, flitting birds and butterflies.

  9. Those are such good ones! Squash is one of my faves.

  10. This is Susan Mills again. Just liked your Page! I'm trying to comment with my user name again, but it doesn't look like I can. Aye! What do I do?

  11. I never heard of this word--just knew of the concept. Thank you for some cool examples:))

  12. Huh. My favorite? I can't say I've ever thought about it. Maybe "thwack"? And if I use them, I probably only use more standard ones. I would say I don't make them up.

    As for Entwined, I just requested it from the library. I should get it in a few days. I think you were right that I needed to read something a little lighter.

  13. YAY! I love this post--and what great resources you've listed! They are officially bookmarked.

    What's your favorite onomatopoeic/sound word? Shwump.
    Do you consciously use onomatopoeia in your writings?
    ALL THE TIME--says the happy YA author. =)
    Have you ever made up onomatopoeic words in your writing? Constantly. My recent fav is "skud-thittle-thump".
    Have you visited The Bookshelf Muse and made use of Angela's helpful lists? BOOKMARKED. Cha-ching!
    Have you read Heather Dixon's ENTWINED yet? ....
    (Can you hear the embarrassing silence?)

  14. i like summer's sweet spot. i had to cut it out becuz it didn't work in my post but you are right. these sorts of words that sound like its meaning evoke powerful images. and they are so fun:)

  15. I don't know my favorite off the top of my head. I have used it consciously, but I don't often; maybe I should play with it more! Yes, Angela is so great! I haven't read ENTWINED yet.

    Have a great weekend! :)

  16. Love this post- gets us thinking.

  17. AAAHHH! I LOVE this! My favorite sound is DINGed. Yeah. I use it a lot, LOL!

  18. OOh this is great--i guess I do use them (bbom, bang, hisss). And I love Angela's blog!

  19. Yeah... I make these noises too often when I'm by myself.

  20. I think my stuff is pretty light on onomatopoeia, but I'm writing an MG novel and somehow it feels appropriate for that to have a little more...

    Thanks for the timely reminder - sometimes I forget how many tools we have at our disposal.

    And I would have misspelled the 'o' word too. When I tried to write it without looking I made two mistakes, so you did well. :-)

  21. I made up an onomontopoea!!! It was blurg. I think. wait... Now I can't remember. LOL! :D No, it was in one of my very first books, and it just came out, and I was like. Yeah! That's exactly the sound. :D

    fun stuff~ <3

  22. Hi Carol,
    I just checked and you need just one more like on your fan page. Congrats to you.


  23. What a fun subject!! And I 'liked' your FB page a few weeks ago :) Good luck!!

  24. Hi Carol,

    Just "liked" your page! Good post. It's a tool I love using and seeing in books for younger readers, but tend to discount in ya, although a lot of authors have achieved very subtle, musical effects with it. Will have to play with it a bit. You've inspired me.



  25. Ha! What a fun post! :D I have read Entwined. I loved the cover so much I had to buy it! And I loved it! :D

  26. Buzz
    Yes, love those lists.
    Not yet.

    I liked your page.

    Have a great week. :)

  27. This is fun. I wish I could use it more often, but it really does have to be a natural thing to come about and fit with the scene.

    Oh and consider yourself 'Liked'!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  28. I don't think I have a favorite onomatopoeia word, but I love using them and coming upon them when they work.

    I "liked" your FB page, too. I have FB pages for my novels, but not an author page. I should probably do that. ; )


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