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Using Onomatopoeia

Using Onomatopoeia

Author: Soma Jurgensen

After exploring this module students (whether in school or not) will be able to chatter and clatter through cocktail parties, show the zip and zing of their creative language skills, and have fun with words again.

Once we get into school and the workplace we can loose the creative edge that the command of our language offers us. We condense, rephrase, and quote, but when do we recapture the magic of the language so many of us have inherited?

Use onomatopoeia to wake up your brain whether you are in middle school or the corner office.

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What is onomatopoeia?

Onomatopoeia are words that imitate the sound they represent. A popular one is ZIP. Can't you just hear the zipper slide moving up the teeth?

Some more common examples include:

  • Bang
  • Sip
  • Bash
  • Zoom
  • Boom
  • Fizz
  • Rush
  • Plop
  • Rip
  • Crackle

Here are some that I like and are not so common:

  • Depth (Can't you just feel the sinking feeling when you say it?)
  • Tumultuous (I can feel, see, and hear something falling head over heels.)
  • Viscous (thick, sticky, eew)

Follow this link to hear sounds and brainstorm the word (onomatopoeia) to which it might belong.


Onomatopoeia Comes to Life

Here is a video made by a college student that has just words, sounds, and pictures. What? No report, memo, or proposal? No 500 word essay? That's right...


Here's an example of poetry using onomatopoeia. Be gentle.


Zippers zing through shifting splashes of colored coats.

Yet crackling gasps and sighs patter through the room.

Careful, don't! Says mom.

...clatter, clang, and dash.

This tumultuous time is simply an entry

to trudge to school through depths of snow.

Now mom says it's time to go.


Okay, so it's not my best work...but you get the picutre.

I'm not in grade school; how do I use onomatopoeia?

Thinking so carefully about the words we're using, how they sound, feel, and the pictures that they conjure, brings us to a new level of awareness. It breaks us out of our mental pathways, and that can bring out innovative thinking that creates a new future.

Here are some ideas for ways to bring onomatopoeia back into your life:

  • Start your class with pictures of people with different expressions and ask your students to come up with words that represent the sounds they think the people are making.
  • Start a brainstorming session with noisy toys and ask participants to write words that represent the sounds.
  • Ask the group to write a haiku using only onomatopoeia.

The benefits can pay off in returns in innovation and energy toward problem solving.