The term onomatopoeia comes from the Greek word “onomatopoeia” which means ‘word-making’. It represents the sound by way of imitating the word. For instance, the sound “meow” represents the word cat.
As far as literature is concerned, poets make use of this feature and convey the meaning of their poetry by way of representing sounds.
The use of sound in such a way that echoes or suggests the meaning is also called onomatopoeia for instance; “The moan of doves in immemorial elms.”
Examples of Onomatopoeia Poems in Literature
Tennyson, in “Song of the Lotus-Eaters”, he describes the languorous life of the Lotus-Eaters by presenting words with sounds:
“Here are cool mosses deep,
And through the moss the ivies creep,
And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,
And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep.”
See the effect of sound produced by the humming bees in the following lines from his “Come Down, O Maid”:
“The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.”
Browning also used some unpleasant sounds, in “Meeting at Night”:
“A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match.”
It has become a literary device in which the sounds of words are used to suggest a sense of the subject.
Examples in Synthetic Languages:
Onomatopoeic words are wonderfully incorporated into the structure of synthetic languages. Some words are evolved into new sounds or pronunciations in such a way that they go beyond the concept of onomatopoeia for instance; the English word “bleat” used for the sheep noise was pronounced as “blairt/blet” in medieval times.
Examples in English Language:
Some very familiar sounds which occur in English language are “beep”, “hiccup”, “bang”, and “splash”.
Certain phrases like “the humming bee”, “the whizzing arrow”, and “the cackling hen” are good examples.
Sounds related to machines are often considered as the examples of onomatopoeia for instance; “beep-beep” sound of horn, and “vroom” sound of engine.
Words used for certain things or objects represent some sounds for instance; the most common word “zip/zipper” stands for fastener.
Certain animal sounds just like “meow” for cat, “quack” for duck, “bark” for dog are very typical in English language.
Many birds are named after the sound they produce for intake; the cuckoo, the whooping crane, chickadee, etc.