Onomatopoeia is defined as;

the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named (e.g., cuckoo, sizzle).

(from Google). They also add:

late 16th century: via late Latin from Greek onomatopoiia ‘word-making,’ from onoma, onomat- ‘name’ + -poios ‘making’ (from poiein ‘to make’).

so the meaning has changed over the centuries.

So for example the noise a pig makes sounds like 'oink', and cat 'meiow'. Other examples are 'bang' and 'gush'.

Are there similar concepts for words formed from sources other than sounds?

  • So you're looking for words that are NOT derived from sounds but from different senses, such as sight? Tactility? Is that it?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 18:54
  • yes. like are 'shiny' and 'dull' shiny and dull words?
    – JMP
    Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 18:56
  • Words that have taken on secondary meanings might be a source of what you seek, especially when the secondary meaning is kind of a non-literal and transferred usage of the primary meaning, like with "loud" as it applies to clothing. But this still depends on associating our knowledge and understanding of the primary meaning of the word "loud" and not on any inherent "loudness" in the word itself, so ... good question ...
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 19:15
  • 1
    We're getting into PIE territory, probably, with things like the cl- phoneme. Prof Lawler has a lot of material on phonosemantics [no.9 at that link].
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 20:05
  • @PapaPoule; so like 'sharp'? coz clothes aren't...
    – JMP
    Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 5:20

2 Answers 2


autological words are words that describe themselves in some way. "Polysyllabic" and "unhyphenated" are the examples usually given.

  • uv for the effort (does abbr. count?)
    – JMP
    Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 19:57

A somewhat old-fashioned word for the general process of word formation is rhematics:

In Collins, for example, the first definition is given as:

rhematic: of or relating to word formation

Similar definitions are given in Dictionary.com and the Phrontistery.

Interestingly, the word has been picked up and its meaning broadened in linguistics and semiotics theory. According to Wikipedia:

Rheme may refer to:

  1. In semiotics, a sign that represents its object in respect of quality
  2. In linguistics, what is being said about a topic; see Theme–rheme

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