General Question

playthebanjo's avatar

What are some words that sound like what they mean? (onomatopoeia)

Asked by playthebanjo (2944points) June 6th, 2008

fizz, beep

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

31 Answers

playthebanjo's avatar

That’s a crazy list! As someone who does not speak a language other than english I guess it never occurred to me that it would exist in other languages as well. But if the words sound like what they mean, how come they are not all (in that list) equivalent? Shouldn’t they sound the same regardless of language? Do French cats say “meow” differently than American cats?

Vincentt's avatar

Well, I believe roosters in English say “cock-a-doodle-do” while it’s “Kukeleku” in Dutch.

Also, even if they were saying the same, the representation in words could be different in different languages. For example, try to pronounce “blaat” in English. And Dutch cats say “mie-auw”, which sounds about the same as “meow” but is spelled differently.

Harp's avatar

creak, wheeze, murmur, whisper

Sueanne_Tremendous's avatar

I always thought “vibrate” sounded like what it is. That v sound vibrates my lip when i say it.

Tinkle. Fluff. Triglyceride.

Must be a million of them.

buster's avatar

tick-tock. batman fight sounds. popcorn.

gailcalled's avatar

susurrus, hiss, buzz,

ezraglenn's avatar

flummox, porridge, calcify, gynecomastia, gentrify.

jballou's avatar

There are some interesting words here (gentrify?)

Onomatopoeia refers specifically to describing a sound though.

My favorites are Thwip, Snikt, and Bamf

playthebanjo's avatar

Okay wait- onomatopoeia only describes a sound? I was thinking that onomatopoeia was a word that sounded like its definition. Is there another term for that?

jballou's avatar

I don’t think there’s any specific term for words that sound like what they mean, probably because that’s mostly a matter of opinion.

ninechars's avatar

try this on for size: glint, glimmer, glamor, gleam, glaze, glass, gloss, glitter, glow

ninechars's avatar

The general term for a word that has some kind of non-lexical connection between its sound and what it represents is “mimetic,” from “mimesis” (mimicking).

Check this out:

Japanese is chock full of mimetics that are not onomatopoeia. However, whether words actually sound like what they mean is a tough question to answer… does the gl cluster in english “sound like” light? The association is fundamentally arbitrary—just look at the variety of animal sound words across languages (in Japan, dogs say “wan wan”).

ninechars's avatar

also a sound or types of sounds associated with a class of phenomena (like “gl” with light) is called a “phonaestheme”

gailcalled's avatar

Dict. examples are cuckoo and sizzle…the words themselves sound like their definition.

The words that @ninechars listed – all pretty and beginning with “gl” but are not onomatopoetic.

@jballou words are interesting but not part of the common parlance yet, as far as I know. “Snick” would come close.

jballou's avatar

Nah, my words weren’t at all common- I would hoping someone would recognize a fellow comic book nerd is all.

Thwip is the sound Spiderman’s webs make
Snikt is the sound Wolverine’s claws make
Bamf is the sound Nightcrawler makes when he teleports

Obviously being comics they have to represent those sounds visually. The words have become quite popular amongst comic book nerds like me.

Vincentt's avatar

@playthebanjo – do you mean phonetic words? (Or at least, we call them “fonetisch” in Dutch so I suppose the English word means the same…)

playthebanjo's avatar

phonetic words would be spelled as they sound, right? I think there is a difference between that and words that sound like their meaning.

Vincentt's avatar

So what’d be a word that sounds like what it means? I’m intrigued.

Vincentt's avatar

OK, I had to look that one up, and I wouldn’t have guessed by its sound that that means what it does ;-)

playthebanjo's avatar

what would you have thought it meant? What is that sound called in Dutch?

Vincentt's avatar

I had no idea what it would have meant, actually :P

In Dutch we don’t really have a word for that sound, you’d probably describe it if you wanted to.

Zen's avatar

Shower. You turn it on, it goes shhhhhhhh. Then you turn on the hot and you go “ow” – shower.

Strauss's avatar

One of my favorite oft-cited examples for onomatopoeia is the the poem The Bells by Edgar Allen Poe

KageeBee's avatar

My favorite was from medical school.

“Borborygmi” is the word for violent stomach rumbling

Strauss's avatar

Crash, bang, boom, roar, tintinabulation.

Zen's avatar

Here are a few:

bang, banged, banging
bash, bashed, bashing
bawl, bawled, bawling
beep, beeped, beeping
belch, belched, belching
blab, blabbed, blabbing
blare, blared, blaring
blurt, blurted, blurting
bonk, bonked, bonking
bump, bumped, bumping
buzz, buzzed, buzzing
clang, clanged, clanging
clank, clanked, clanking
clap, clapped, clapping,
clatter, clattered, clattering
flick, flicker
gurgle, gurgled, gurgling
ping, plop
pop, popped, popping
roar, roared, roaring
rustle, rustled, rustling
screech, screeched, screeching
sizzle, sizzled, sizzling
thump, thumped, thumpin
whisper, whispered, whispering

Strauss's avatar

@playthebanjo how about this one:

ban-jo, ban-jo, pick and play the ban-jo!

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