“Onomatopoeia” (say: o·nuh·ma·tuh·pee·uh) is a very long and complicated word, with a very simple meaning. In fact, you use onomatopoeia all the time, without even thinking about it! It comes naturally.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines onomatopoeia as: “the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (such as buzz, hiss).” In other words, when a word sounds like what that word is describing. A bee makes the sound “bzzzz” so we say that a bee is buzzing. A snake makes the sound “hssss”, so we say that the snake is hissing.
Because of so many words being based on this imitation, there is a theory that language started by imitating natural sounds. Writers and poets love using onomatopoeia because it can make the reader feel like they can feel, see and hear a scene.
In our story about the Flamboyant tree in this edition of The KIDS Herald, we mention that in St. Kitts, one nickname for the tree is the Shack-Shack Tree. The seeds make a rattling sound when shaken in the pods. Shack-shack is an example of onomatopoeia. You can hear it, can’t you? Shack-shack, shack-shack!
In particular, there are lots of sounds associated with animals, water, and impacts (something hitting something else) that are onomatopoeic. Say these words out loud; do you hear the connection?
Dogs: woof, growl
Cats: meow, purr
Birds: chirp, cheep, crow, quack, tweet
Sizzle (the sound of something hot in the frying pan)
Clap (your hands)
The following poem, Storm by Olisha Starr is chock-full of onomatopoeia. These words help you to imagine how powerful the storm is.
Booming and Banging thunder in the air
Crashing and Rumbling waves against wet rock
Bombing and scraping, lighting the sky
Swishing and Sloshing Rain on a windscreen
Metallic thuds on a tin roof
Swishing and Swooshing the flooding roads
Howling and Moaning, wind attacking
Wavering, Crashing and Sizzling
Thudding and Banging hail on every window
Slamming and Echoing
doors in the house.