What exactly is Onomatopoeia?
Besides being a word that we all have trouble spelling correctly, Merriam-Webster defines onomatopoeia as “the naming of a thing of action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (such as buzz or hiss).” Simply put, onomatopoeia words are sound words. Clap, growl, jangle, vroom—all of these choices have distinctive sounds and are examples of onomatopoeia.
Why use Onomatopoeia?
Using effective sound words in your writing—such as clang or achoo—will certainly help you come up with the most creative way to convey what is happening in a scene. Importantly, it also enhances the sensory experience for the reader. And it’s FUN!
You’ll also find that your sentences can be trimmed of unnecessary words—one onomatopoeia word choice usually replaces a much lengthier description. If you are writing children’s picture books where the economy of words is especially important, utilizing sound words will help you keep your word count low. Consider these examples:
“She made a low, mournful sound as if she were in pain” or She groaned
“He ejected gas spasmodically and noisily from his stomach through his mouth” or He belched
You get the picture. Onomatopoeia allows you to be concise. Additionally, sound words inject an element of humor and playfulness into your piece.
Children’s Books that showcase Onomatopoeia:
There are oodles of children’s picture books that effectively employ onomatopoeia. Here are a few of my favorites:
A Mouthful of Onomatopoeia, by Bette Blaisdell
Bear Snores On, by Karma Wilson
Boom Boom, by Sarvinder Naberhaus
“Buzz,” said the Bee, by Wendy Lewison
Click, Clack, Moo, Cows that Type, by Doreen Cronin
Hush!: a Thai Lullaby, by Minfong Ho
Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!, by Candace Fleming
Roller Coaster, by Marla Frazee
Split! Splat!, by Amy Gibson
Squeak! Rumble! Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!: A Sonic Adventure, by Wynton Marsalis
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, by Linda Williams
Watersong, by Tim McCanna
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen
Who Likes Rain?, by Wong Herbert Yee
Whoosh, Crunch, Roar: Football Onomatopoeia, by Mark Weakland
Zin! Zin! Zin!: A Violin, by Lloyd Moss
A Handy-Dandy Onomatopoeia Word List
Writers love tools that save them time—at least, I know I do. I recently began working on a picture book project where I wanted to associate a key sound with each of my anthropomorphic characters. I searched on the internet for an expansive list of sound words. I found a few pretty good listings, but I couldn’t find ONE complete list that included the entire universe (or close to it) of great onomatopoeia words. So I took one for the team and gave up an afternoon to put all those lists into one comprehensive onomatopoeia word list. And POW!— I’m sharing it with YOU, our devoted GROG Blog Readers so that you may take advantage of it, too.
Find my list on this page on my website:
Note: I’m sure that YOU, our whip-smart blog readers may know some onomatopoeia words that I missed. If so, comment with additional words on this GROG post and I’ll add them to this handy listing. In a few weeks, I’ll reshare the document. Happy writing!
AND the winner of the picture book, SMELLY KELLY, by Beth Anderson is Angie Quantrell. Congratulations!