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November 02, 2011 Word of the Day

  • onomatopoeia
  • ah-nuh-mah-tuh-PEE-uh


: the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (as buzz, hiss)
: the use of words whose sound suggests the sense

"Bam!" "Pow!" "Crash!" These and other words created by onomatopoeia flashed on the screen throughout the show's fight scenes.

"The rhymes in the text are simple but not obvious. The rhythm is constant, not languid, as it is punctuated by exclamations, dialogue and onomatopoeia." -- From a book review by Hadley Newton in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Texas), September 1, 2011


"Onomatopoeia" came into English via Late Latin and ultimately traces back to Greek "onoma," meaning "name," and "poiein," meaning "to make." ("Onoma" can be found in such terms as "onomastics," which refers to the study of proper names and their origins, while "poiein" gave us such words as "poem" and "poet.") English speakers have only used the word "onomatopoeia" since the mid-1500s, but people have been creating words from the sounds heard around them for much longer. In fact, the presence of so many imitative words in language spawned the linguistic Bowwow Theory, which postulates that language originated in imitation of natural sounds.