An onomatopoeia is a figurative language (and within that a device of sound) that uses word whose pronunciation imitates or suggests the sound the word describes. It makes your writing expressive through use of sound of words.
In this post, each onomatopoeic word carries meaning and example sentences, sometimes up to three. Where an onomatopoeic word falls into multiple categories, it has been included separately in each category, with a number next to it (example: Buzz (1) and Buzz (2)) to depict its multiple mentions. (Note that in the count of 140+, multiple mentions are counted only once.)
More resources on onomatopoeia:
- What is onomatopoeia and common mistakes to avoid while writing them?
- Exercises: Identify onomatopoeia
Note: Comments are in square brackets.
Babble: Excited and incoherent talk that is difficult to understand
Nervous, I babbled my way through the first few minutes of the interview.
Blabber: To talk excessively, often annoying people
She blabbered on the latest on drones, forcing some to slip out of the room.
Blurt: To say something abruptly without giving adequate thought
When questioned, the kid blurted out name of the person responsible for the broken windowpane.
Buzz (1): To be filled with low noise of activity and energy
The conference room was buzzing with the excited reporters.
Chatter: Quick and continuous talk, especially about things that aren’t important
We chattered about the ongoing football tournament during the coffee break.
Chirp (1): To say something in a happy voice
“Good morning!” she chirped.
Chitchat: Informal conversation about unimportant things
The chitchat continued until my phone buzzed.
Cluck (1): To make a short, sharp sound with tongue to express disapproval or other emotion
The driver honked and clucked to force the road-hogging cows to move aside.
“This can be done better,” the boss clucked.
Croak (1): Deep, rough voice because of sore or dry throat
After cheering for my team loudly yesterday, I croaked in the class today.
Gibberish: Technical or difficult-to-understand language
The engineers spoke to each other in their software gibberish which more or less went over my head.
Grumble: To complain about something in discontent
She grumbled about the poor organization of the conference, poor service at the hotel, and almost everything.
“Why can’t you do such things right in the first go?” he grumbled.
Mumble: To speak in a way that words are difficult to understand
He mumbled something about his plans for the evening before moving to his seat.
“See you tomorrow,” he mumbled.
Murmur: Soft quiet voice that is difficult to understand
He murmured something in her ear.
Mutter: To speak almost inaudibly with lips barely open
When rebuffed, the man muttered few expletives and left.
Roar (1): To shout loudly
“Why is it taking so much time?” the floor manager roared.
Shush: Command – holding the index finger vertically against the lips – to be quiet
I shushed the kids in the library, a silence zone.
Whine (1): To make a complaining sound or complain continually
The child kept whining about buying the latest toy.
1.2 Eating and drinking
Burp/ belch: To force air from the stomach to come out through mouth, especially while or after eating
I let out few burps much to the chagrin of others present at the table.
Chomp: To chew food noisily (can be used for animals as well)
I was chomping my chicken piece unconcerned by the reaction of others around.
The pride of lions was chomping its kill.
Crunch (1): To crush hard food between the teeth, producing a crackling sound
I was crunching the crackers.
Gobble: To eat something fast
I gobbled breakfast before rushing out for the airport.
Gulp: To swallow, mainly food or drink, in large amount
I gulped down a glass of buttermilk between the two calls.
He gulped down the sob.
Guzzle: To drink or consume something in large quantity
He guzzled three pints of beer before heading home.
Munch: To chew steadily
I passed time munching on peanuts while waiting for the show to start.
Slurp: Sucking noise while drinking
Don’t slurp the soup! It’s bad manners.
Cackle (1): Laugh loudly
Finding the sheep at her mercy, the witch cackled before waving her wand.
Chortle: Laugh, especially when amused or pleased
He chortled with delight on the news of his favourite team winning in a close contest.
Giggle: Laugh in quiet, silly way
The students in the last row stopped giggling the moment teacher’s gaze moved towards them.
Guffaw: Laugh uncontrollably
The guffaws stopped when the warden, known as a strict disciplinarian, entered the mess.
Snicker: Laugh at someone or something rudely, often at a mistake
I shrugged off the snicker at my unfashionable clothes and went about my work with even more determination.
1.4 Pain and anguish
Bawl (1): Cry
The child bumped into the corner of the chair and started bawling uncontrollably.
Boo-hoo: To weep with sobs
The kid kept boo-hooing despite revelation that the ghost was a prank.
Groan: Long, deep sound of grief, pain, or annoyance
The teacher groaned at the student’s unbelievable excuse for not finishing the assignment.
Grunt (1): Short, low sound when you’re in pain, annoyed, or not interested in something
He grunted while pushing the heavy box. [Comment: Pain]
On my suggestion to go for coffee, he just grunted and turned his focus back to his laptop. [Not interested]
Howl (1): A loud sound expressing pain, sadness, or other strong emotion
I caught my head on the door and howled in pain.
Moan: Long, low, inarticulate sound of pain or suffering
He moaned with pain as the doctor straightened his hand.
“It’s better to die”, he moaned.
Scream: Sudden, loud, piercing cry
The man screamed at the lizard falling on the dinner table.
Click (1): Short, sharp sound of heels on the floor
The NCC scouts clicked their heels on command.
Her heels clicked as she made her way through the lobby.
Clomp/ clump: To walk with heavy, loud steps, especially with boots on
She clomped around in her fashionable boots.
I heard the clomp, clomp of approaching soldiers.
Crunch (2): To make a sound as if something is being crushed or broken under your feet
The snow/ leaves underneath crunched as we walked across the field.
Squeak (1): Short, unpleasant sound made by shoes with rubber soles on shiny floor
The shoes squeaked as the kid walked playfully.
Squelch: To make sucking sound when you walk on soft, wet ground
I squelched through the muddy path to enter the building.
Squish (1): Sound of walking on soft ground
I could hear the squish of the damp ground when the policeman in his boots walked past.
Stomp: To intentionally walk with heavy steps, especially to show annoyance
The kid stomped up the stairs and slammed the door shut.
The athlete stomped to keep himself warm.
Thump (1): Running on the ground, especially with bare feet
The first runner thumped past the first milestone in just 10 minutes.
Gurgle (1): To make happy sound, especially used for babies
The baby gurgled before giving a curious look.
Whoop: Loud, excited sound showing enjoyment or enthusiasm
When the actor took the stage, the crowd went delirious, whooping and waving.
Bawl (2): Shout loudly
“Get out of here!” he bawled.
Brouhaha: Lot of noise or complaining about something
There is a big brouhaha over the council’s decision to increase property tax.
Hiss (1): To say something angrily
“How dare you say that” she hissed.
Gnash: To grind teeth together
People expressed disappointment and gnashed teeth at increase in income tax rates.
Snarl (1): To say something angrily
“You may leave now,” he snarled.
Achoo: Sound of sneezing
Then came a loud achoo, stunning others in the room.
Cough: To expel air noisily from lungs
The hospital ward reverberated with the coughs of the patient.
Wheeze: A high, rough noise – usually whistling – when someone breathes with difficulty
The old man wheezed as he made his way up the stairs.
Gasp: To take a short, quick breath, almost audibly, in shock or surprise
She gasped on seeing the expensive diamond necklace.
The incredible crosscourt backhand drew gasps from the crowd.
Screech (1): An unpleasant, loud sound (can be used for animals as well)
“When will you finish the job?” he screeched.
He screeched with pain.
Monkeys were screeching at each other.
Shriek: Sharp, shrill cry or sound
The shriek of the alarm jolted me out of the bed.
Throb: A regular beat, especially used for heart
As I awaited the result, my throbbed with the speed of a bullet train.
We could hear the throbbing drumbeat of a nearby celebration.
The car’s engine throbbed.
Bark: Sound made by a dog
The dog barked and chased the stranger right to the end of the street.
Bow-wow: Dog vocalization [Note that unlike bark, bow-vow is the actual sound produced by dogs]
The village dog’s bow-wow attracted the attention of a passing leopard.
Bleat: Sound made by a sheep or goat
The sheep bleated as it tried to find its way back to the flock.
Bray: To utter the characteristic loud, harsh cry of a donkey, mule, or zebra
The donkey, standing in the middle of the road, started braying.
Croak (2)/ Ribbit: Deep, rough sound made by a frog or crow
With the onset of rainy season, frogs came out croaking.
Growl: Low, rough sound, made by an animal in anger
The tiger growled when the visitors went too close to its enclosure.
Grunt (2): Low, rough noise made by a pig
Grunting, the pigs waded through the field in search of food.
Hiss (2): Sound made by a snake
The snake hissed once again, forcing the honey badger to retreat.
Howl (2): Long, sad sound of a dog, wolf, or coyote
As the sun went down, we could hear the howls of coyotes and wolves coming from across the river.
Lap: To drink with short, quick movement of tongue
The zebras were watchful of lions and crocodiles while lapping water.
Meow: The crying sound of a cat
The cat meowed till she was fed.
Moo: Sound made by a cow
The calf mooed and attracted the attention of the cow.
Purr (1): To make a quiet, continuous sound like a cat does
The cat purred as I stroked her.
Roar (2): Loud, deep cry of a tiger or lion
The lion roared intermittently to signal rivals to stay away from his territory.
Snarl (2): To make an angry sound while showing teeth, especially used for dogs
I was taken aback by the dog’s snarl; a moment earlier, he seemed so friendly.
Sniff: To draw air audibly through nose when smelling something (can be used for humans as well)
The dog sniffed out contraband in the baggage at the airport.
I sniffed the perfume before putting it aside and trying another.
Squeak (2): Short, shrill sound of a mouse
Hundreds of rodents, feeding and squeaking, all over the temple floor was an unusual sight for me.
Squeal: To utter a short shrill sound or cry (can be used for many things, including humans and animals)
With the dog chasing them, the pigs ran helter-skelter, squealing.
As he got tickled, he broke into giggles and squeals.
The tires squealed as the car turned round the sharp bend.
Whimper: To make series of low sounds, expressing pain or unhappiness (can be used for humans as well)
The dog whimpered as the vet inspected his wound.
The boy screamed and whimpered on hitting his knee to the chair.
Parents are whimpering about increase in fee by the school.
Whine (2): To make a long, high-pitched, sad sound
The dog whined to signal that he wants food.
Woof: Dog vocalization
On seeing the monkey, the dog went woof, woof.
Yelp: A short, sharp cry of a dog, usually when in pain
The dog yelped as I accidentally stepped on his tail.
Buzz (2): Continuous humming sound like the one made by a bee [This doesn’t belong to bird category, but that was the closest.]
The buzz of the bee in the room irritated me.
Cackle (2): Loud, unpleasant sound made by a hen or goose
The hens picked the grains, occasionally looking straight and letting out a cackle.
Chirp (2): To make a short, high sound, especially by a bird
The birds were chirping atop the tree.
My mobile phone chirped at the most inopportune time – while I was interviewing.
Cluck (2): Characteristic sound made by a hen when calling her chicks
The hen clucked at her chicks.
Cock-a-doodle-doo: The call of a rooster, usually in the morning
The cock-a-doodle-doo of the rooster woke me up.
Flap: To move wings up and down when taking off or flying
The pigeon flapped its wings furiously to escape the eagle.
Flutter: Sound of quick movements from side to side or up and down
The eagle fluttered its wings and took off for a hunt.
Quack: Sound of a duck
The lakefront was buzzing with the quack, quack of ducks.
Squawk: Unpleasant, loud scream, especially of a bird (can be used for humans as well)
The chickens squawked, demanding food.
The baby stopped squawking only when he was reunited with his favorite toy.
He laughed uncontrollably, letting out squawks of laughter.
Tweet: Chirping sound made by a small bird
The birds were tweeting.
Warble: To sing pleasantly, especially used for bird (can be used for humans as well)
The warble of birds in the countryside was a pleasant break from the cacophony of city life.
I usually warble in the bathroom.
Swish: Sound of an object moving quickly through air or water
The cow swished its tail to ward off the pesky flies.
The curtains swished open, and the show began.
Swoosh: Sound of air or water that is moving quickly
The police car swooshed by, chasing few miscreants.
Water was swooshing powerfully from the punctured pipeline.
Whoosh: Sound made by something moving fast through the air or when air or water is pushed through something
The car whooshed past, shaking the window panes.
Water whooshed through the hose.
2.4 Water or liquid
Drip: To fall in drops
Water dripped from the tap.
Fizz: A fizzing liquid produces bubbles and makes continuous ‘s’ sound
The soda bottle opened with a fizz.
Gargle: To move a liquid around in your mouth and throat without swallowing it
I gargled with lukewarm salt water to relieve my sore throat.
Gurgle (2): Soothing sound of a small stream flowing rapidly
I dozed off amid the soothing gurgle of the nearby stream.
Plop: The sound of something solid dropping into a liquid
The ice cubes plopped into the scotch as the celebrations began.
I dropped the stone into the well, and, with a short time lag, heard a plop.
Slosh: (1) To splash around in water or slush (2) To cause water to move around in the container
We sloshed around in the pool.
I sloshed the soda in my glass. [Poured carelessly, in other words]
Splash: Sound of a liquid hitting a solid surface
He splashed his face with the water from the stream.
While taking out the stirrer from the pot, I accidentally splashed the wall with the gravy.
Splat: Sound of a liquid hitting a solid surface or the sound of something hitting the surface of the liquid
It has been raining for hours – splat, splat, splat.
The water balloon hit the window pane with a splat.
The ball fell splat into the well.
Splatter: Sound produced when a thick liquid hits a surface and covers it with small drops
The dog, soaked to the bone in the rain, shook vigorously and splattered the wall.
The vandals splattered the statue with paint.
Spray: A jet of fine droplets of liquid
I sprayed some perfume and left for the get-together.
Squirt: to eject liquid in a sudden rapid jet from a narrow opening
I squirted tomato sauce on the sandwich.
The children were squirting the passers-by with water pistols.
Tinkle (1): Sound of falling water
We could hear the tinkle of a distant stream.
Drizzle: Rain in small, light droplets
It drizzled the whole day and the match was finally called off at 3 PM.
Lash: To hit with force
The rain lashed at the windscreen.
Pitter-patter: Rapid succession of quick, light knocking sounds, often used to describe the sound of rain
The rain pitter-pattered for over an hour, spoiling our plan for an outdoor game.
My heart pitter-pattered while waiting for the result.
Crash (1): To hit something, often making a loud sound
We could hear the waves crash against the shoreline.
Pound (1): To hit something repeatedly with force
The waves pounded the rocks on the coastline.
Roar (3): Loud, deep sound
The deafening roar of the waves made it difficult for us to talk on the beach.
Rumble (1): A continuous low sound
We sat for dinner, with the rumbling waves in the background.
Chug: The sound of an engine or motor
The bus chugged along the hilly road, covering only 150 kilometers in six hours.
We tried to guess the vehicle from the chug of its engine.
Honk: Short, loud sound of a car horn
The guy on the other car gave us a honk to signal that something was wrong on the rear of our car.
Roar (4)/ Thunder: Move quickly with lot of noise
The stuntman roared his bike through number of obstacles, mesmerizing the crowd.
While I was waiting at the level crossing, I saw a train thunder past like a blip.
Screech (2): Sound made by tires of a car when it stops suddenly
The driver slammed the brakes in the nick of time to bring the car to a screeching halt and avoid accident.
Sputter: To make several quick explosive sounds
The car sputtered before coming to a halt.
The car sputtered but didn’t start.
Vroom: Sound of a car moving at high speed
The race car turned the curve and then vroomed on the home stretch.
Whizz: To move very fast, making a continuous sound
The Formula 1 car whizzed past me in a blink.
4. Devices, appliances, and other household items
Blam: Very loud noise like that of a bomb (this is similar to one of the uses of bang)
Blam! The entire locality shook with the burst of car tyre.
Blare: An unpleasantly loud sound
Loudspeakers blared the message on malaria.
The radio was blaring songs from 80s.
Boom: A loud, deep sound
The tiger’s roar boomed across the jungle, alerting other animals.
The boom of the guns could be heard miles away.
Click (2): Short, sharp sound
With the click of the camera, I captured an unforgettable picture.
Creak: A long, harsh sound made by a worn-out thing when it is moved
When pushed open, the rusty door creaked.
The stairs creaked as we made our way up.
Ding/ Ding-dong: To make a short ringing sound like a bell makes
The ding of the timer broke my chain of thought.
Ding-dong and came in my neighbour.
Hiss (3): Noise with a long ‘s’ sound
The pipe hissed as the gas leaked forcefully.
The kettle/ iron hissed.
Hum: A low-intensity continuous sound
I could barely study in the evening amidst the hum of fumigating machine.
The AC/ refrigerator hummed in the background.
Jingle: Repeated soft ringing sound
The coins in my pocket jingled during the run.
The bells jingled.
Knell: Sound of a bell, especially when rung slowly to mark death or funeral
The bell knelled to mark the death of the beloved leader.
Pht: Sound of an air-pistol or a pistol with silencer
Pht! And the soldier missed the bull’s eye by a whisker.
Pop: A short, sharp sound of something exploding
We ducked under the table as we heard the pop, pop of guns.
Corks popped and champagne flew as the clock moved a second past 12 midnight.
The balloons popped one by one as I fired at them.
Purr (2): To make a quiet, continuous sound like a machine does
A swanky Mercedes purred in the driveway while the driver waited for coffee.
The lawnmower purred in the front lawn.
Rat-a-tat: Sound of knocking, tapping, or firing (often by a machine gun) in rapid succession
The police surrounded the shooter and a rat-a-tat ensued.
The rat-a-tat at the door woke me up.
Rumble (2): A continuous low sound
The machine/ convoy rumbled in the distant.
My stomach rumbled with hunger.
Sizzle: Sound of food, usually hissing, cooking in a hot pan
An assortment of vegetables was sizzling in the pan.
Snip: Sound of a single cut of scissors
I could hear thousands of snips from the garment factory in the neighbouring building.
I snipped the paper into tiny bits.
Squeak (3): Short, shrill sound a door or window makes when opened
The almirah doors squeaked as I pushed them open.
Tick/ Ticktock: The sound a timer or clock makes
The timer seemed to tick faster than it was.
We could hear ticktock of the wall clock from the next room.
Tinkle (2): Light, ringing sound
The ice cubes tinkled in the glass as he stirred his drink.
Whir: Low, soft, continuous sound, especially of a machine. The use is quite similar to that of hum and purr.
The motor whirred in the basement, pumping water to the overhead tank.
Bang: Sound of a sudden strike or a very loud noise like that of a bomb
I banged the door, and it flung open with a creak.
The judge banged the table thrice and requested for order in the courtroom.
Bang! The firecracker went off, spooking us.
Bash: To strike hard
The police bashed up the goons in the lockup.
I kept bashing at my laptop keyboard till I finished my work.
Clank: Short loud sound of two metal objects hitting each other
We started the celebrations, opening and clanking the beer cans.
The car’s radiator clanked as it emerged from the driveway.
Clap: To strike two flat surfaces such as palms to make a short loud noise
The conference room reverberated with claps and applause.
Clatter: Continuous sound of hard objects hitting against each other
I could hear the clatter of dishes being washed from the garage.
Crackle: To make succession of short, sharp sound
The leaves crackled under our feet as we neared the campsite.
As the bonfire intensified, twigs and logs crackled.
Crash (2): To hit something, often making a loud sound and causing damage
The car crashed into the side railing.
The dog came crashing through the clutter on the floor.
Grate: The harsh, unpleasant sound produced when two hard surfaces rub together
The ACs fan grated against another part, forcing me to switch it off.
Grind: To reduce something to small pieces or powder by rubbing it between two hard surfaces
I ground the glass pieces, mixed it with other ingredients, and used the mix to fortify my kite string.
Shall I grind the coffee/ grain?
Kaboom: The sound of an explosion or crash
The explosive went kaboom.
The car rammed into the electric pole and kaboom.
Knock: To strike something repeatedly with sharp blows, producing sound
There is someone knocking at the door.
Mangle: To twist or tear something, especially metal, so that it is badly damaged
The car mangled on hitting the tree.
Plonk/ plump: The sound of putting something down heavily
I entered the room huffing and puffing and plonked down the carry bags on the table.
Just plump down here on the couch and make yourself comfortable.
Pound (2): To hit something repeatedly with force
I pounded on the door till it was opened.
The storm pounded the city, bringing the life to a standstill.
Pow: Sound of a blow or explosion, especially in children’s cartoons
We heard pow, pow, pow! Gunshots were being fired.
Rattle: Short, sharp noises in rapid succession
Windows rattled and doors creaked, as the wind swept through the house.
The rattle of key in the lock attracted the attention of a passing policeman.
Rustle: Soft sound produced when leaves or papers move
The leaves underneath the tree rustled in the wind.
Slam: To shut with force, producing noise
He slammed the brakes just in time to avoid hitting the bike.
Jack slammed the newspaper on the table and proceeded to the conference room.
Slap: Quick hit with a flat object, especially palm
He slapped me on the back and appreciated my work.
Smack: (1) To hit with flat hand, especially as a way of punishing (2) To hit something hard against something else
The man smacked his son on the bottom for breaking the neighbour’s windscreen.
I smacked my bag on the chair and proceeded to have a chat with friends.
Smash: To break something noisily into small pieces
The ball landed in the nearby school, smashing the window.
Snap: (1) Cracking sound of something thin breaking suddenly (2) To move into position quickly, producing a sharp clicking sound
The branch snapped under the load of snow.
The lock of my suitcase snapped shut.
Squish (2): To squeeze something soft
I accidentally sat – and squished – the bananas.
I could hear the squish of the damp ground when the heavy roller rolled over it.
Tap: To hit something lightly often repeatedly, making short, sharp noises
He tapped fingers on the table, annoying me no end.
Thud: A dull sound produced when something heavy falls on something else
The carton full of books fell on the ground with a thud.
We could hear the thud of horse’s hoofs in the distance.
Thump (2): To strike with something thick or heavy to produce a dull sound
I got spooked at the thump on the door.
He fell on the floor with a thump.
Whack: To strike someone or something noisily
He whacked the ball out of the ground.
The muggers whacked him, leaving him on the street unconscious.
Wring: To twist something, especially a cloth, to drain liquid from it by turning your hands in opposite directions [This isn’t collision but more of applying force through twisting.]
I wrung the towel and hung it in the sun.