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Do we have any practical uses of onomatopoeia in contemporary English? I can not claim to have read many materials, but I have to confess I have rarely seen it used a lot.

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How did you get to this site without clicking? – RegDwigнt Feb 17 '11 at 16:08
@RegDwight: Poof! Mind = blown. – Robusto Feb 17 '11 at 16:10
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Each onomatopoeic word is its own entity. Asking whether there are any practical uses for onomatopoeia is similar to asking whether there are any practical uses for words ending in f. You have to evaluate each word on a case-by-case basis.

Here is a list of some onomatopoeic words (from here):

Buzz, Beep, Whirr, Click, Clack, Clunk, Clatter, Clink, Achoo, Ahem, Fizz, Bah, Bump, Bam, Bang, Bash, Puff, Bawl, Boing, Bong, Bonk, Boo, Varoom, vroom, Bubble, Whoosh, Slurp, Wham, Biff, Pow, Snore, Swish, Swoosh, Blare, Blurt, Boing, Boink, Boom, Slurch, Clank, Clatter, Click, Ring, Ting, Honk, Jingle, Toot, Hum, Thud, Tick-tock, Cluck, Poof, Crackle, Ding, Hiccup, Crunch, Eek, Flick, Ping, Plop, Zap, Zing, Zip, Zoom

Buzz, beep, honk, plop (and so on) are perfectly normal, commonly-used English words. These words can be any type of lexical category, and can be just as useful as any other type of word.

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The repeated words in that list bother me, but that's not your fault. Good answer. – Jon Purdy Feb 17 '11 at 21:30
@Jon Purdy: Got rid of those I was able to see :) – Kosmonaut Feb 17 '11 at 23:12

There is plenty of onomatopoeia going on in English all the time.

A few common words that are largely onomatopoetic:

sigh whack whoosh plink ping-pong plop flop whisk blab murmur susurrus pop click honk bark yap

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gah, badly out-listed by Kosmonaut. :-p – Hellion Feb 17 '11 at 19:51
Haha, sorry about that :) – Kosmonaut Feb 17 '11 at 20:11

You can say that cuckoo is an onomatopoeic word, or that is an onomatopoeia.

Apart from using onomatopoeia to mean that a word is formed from the sound it describes, or to refer to the use of such words for rhetorical effect, I don't think you usually use that word.

[Reference: the New Oxford American Dictionary.]

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