1. What is it?

Onomatopoeia is the use of words that represent sounds.

Some onomatopoeia may be culturally known. For example: splash, oink

However, it is flexible: writers can use phonetics to create any new word that sounds like a sound.

2. Why use it?

Add sounds to writing.Create sound effects for visual literature, such as comic books and graphic novels.

3. Examples

Deep in the woods the hoots of the owls and groans of the hollowed boughs filled the space where the wind should have been. Yet these noises were nothing she had not heard before or imagined from story books. Instead, the noise that truly got under her skin was the soft ‘shurp’ of the leaves and grass as they resettled behind her steps.

At first all I could hear was the gentle drip, drip, of water hitting concrete, the slow tat, tat, tat that echoes in cold leaking rooms. But then the ceiling growled, mrrr, and I looked up to see the crack in the ceiling extend suddenly. Then, the drip, drip, tat, tat, tat stopped and after a second, was replaced by a huge whoosh, a splushhhhrrrr, as the structure gave way and gallons of water fell on my head.

4. Examples in literature

I Know All the Sounds that the Animals Make
by Jack Prelutsky

Know Your Book

Title: I Know All the Sounds that the Animals Make
Author: Jack Prelutsky (1940- )
Published: 2006 (in I’m Glad I’m Me: Poems About You)
Language: English
Genre: Poetry; children’s poetry
Synopsis: A simple comic poem showing onomatopoeia. In it, the poet proudly declares that he knows all the animal noises, and then proceeds to get them all wrong.

I know all the sounds that the animals make,
And make them all day from the moment I wake,
I roar like a mouse, and I purr like a moose,
I hoot like a duck and I moo like a goose.
I squeak like a cat and I quack like a frog,
I oink like a bear, and I honk like a hog.
I croak like a cow, and I bark like a bee.
No wonder the animals marvel at me!

Skimming, Scanning and Basic Comprehension

1. How many animals are mentioned (not including the human narrator) in the poem?
2. What noise does the poem’s narrator think bears make?
3. What is the key mistake that the narrator is making in terms of the animal noises? 
Identifying Techniques

4. How many examples of onomatopoeia can you find in the poem? Highlight each example.
5. What is the rhyme structure of the poem?
6. In which narrative voice is the poem told?
7. What image do you get of the poems narrator as he makes his animal noises? 
Text Analysis

8. How is humour achieved within the poem?
9. In the 8-line poem, 5 lines follow the same pattern and 3 do not. Why are the fives lines similar? And why are the three different?
10. How does the poem express child-like joy at the animal kingdom?
11. Why does the writer use the word ‘marvel’? What effect is achieved by it? 
Provoking Opinion

12. Why do you think all the animals ‘marvel’ at the narrator?
13. Different cultures have different onomatopoeia for animal sounds. Can you think of any different examples? What noises do you think best fit various animals?
14. Do you feel it is OK to maintain child-like wonder at the world, even if it involves looking foolish? Is there an age at which people should become more serious?

Under Milk Wood
by Dylan Thomas

Know Your Book

Title: Under Milk Wood
Author: Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)
Published: 1954
Language: English
Genre: Drama; radio play; comedy; pastoral poem
Plot: On a normal day in the village of Llareggub, the audience meets the villagers. As they interact with each other, the secret desires, lost loves, memories of better days, or irritations with their partners come to the fore. Amongst them are Cpt. Cat, whose memories of drowning shipmates has robbed him of joy; Willy Nilly, the postman who reads other people’s love letters; and Polly Garter, the lowly cleaner who sings about her sexual relationships.
Setting: Llareggub, a fictional village in Wales
Characters: Cpt. Cat; Rev. Jenkins; Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard


There’s the clip clop of horses on the sunhoneyed cobbles of the humming streets, hammering of horse-shoes, gobble quack and cackle, tomtit twitter from the bird-ounced boughs, braying on Donkey Down. Bread is baking, pigs are grunting, chop goes the butcher, milk-churns bell, tills ring, sheep cough, dogs shout, saws sing. Oh, the Spring whinny and morning moo from the clog dancing farms, the gulls’ gab and rabble on the boat-bobbing river and sea and the cockles bubbling in the sand, scamper of sanderlings, curlew cry, crow caw, pigeon coo, clock strike, bull bellow, and the ragged gabble of the beargarden school as the women scratch and babble in Mrs Organ Morgan’s general shop where everything is sold: custard, buckets, henna, rat-traps, shrimp nets, sugar, stamps, confetti, paraffin, hatchets, whistles.

1. The paragraph describes

a) feeding time on a farm
b) setting up at a market square
c) a spring morning in a village
d) sales day at a local shop
e) the dawn chorus in a forest

2. The passage makes heavy use of

a) sarcasm
b) hyperbole
c) euphemism
d) simile
e) onomatopoeia

3. Which type of animal’s sound is not mentioned within the passage?

a) Cow
b) Horse
c) Bird
d) Sheep
e) Cat

4. Which of the following techniques is not used in the passage?

a) Imagery
b) Rhyme
c) Anthropomorphism
d) Consonance
e) Parallelism

5. Compared to the poem I Know All the Sounds that the Animals Make, the passage from Under Milk Wood uses sounds for

a) plot narrative
b) comic effect
c) creating pathos
d) establishing setting
e) character study


5. Tasks

Task 1: Create 10 new words that describe specific sounds.
Task 2: Write the following scenes, including onomatopoeia: 1) a person waking up2) a carriage on a train as it travels through the countryside 3) sudden activity in a jungle