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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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  • 10
    How did you get to this site without clicking?
    – RegDwigнt
    Feb 17, 2011 at 16:08
  • 1
    @RegDwight: Poof! Mind = blown.
    – Robusto
    Feb 17, 2011 at 16:10

3 Answers 3

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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, 2011 at 21:30
  • @Jon Purdy: Got rid of those I was able to see :)
    – Kosmonaut
    Feb 17, 2011 at 23:12
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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, 2011 at 19:51
  • Haha, sorry about that :)
    – Kosmonaut
    Feb 17, 2011 at 20:11
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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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