I'm not talking about onomatopoeia—I don't mean a word that describes a sound—I mean something along the lines of an aptronym, i.e. a perfect name such as Anthony Camera for a photographer (true story). What is the word for when a word just sounds like exactly what it means? I heard the word for this once, long ago, and have since forgotten it.

"Push" and "Pull" might be examples, in that the sounds they form evoke the physical actions denoted.

2 Answers 2


Perhaps you're thinking of an ideophone, a broader idea than just onomatopoeia (not restricted to sound).

Mark Dingemanse explains ideophones:

English, for example, has ideophonic words like glimmer, twiddle, tinkle which are depictive of sensory imagery: their form betrays something of their meaning in ways that words "chair" and "dog" do not.

  • Just as a point of interest, Japanese is curious in that it conflates onomatopoeic and ideophonic nouns, e.g., "niko-niko" for gleaming teeth, "koro-koro" for rolling logs, and "kyoro-kyoro" for wandering around aimlessly.
    – The Raven
    Commented Jun 7, 2011 at 20:14
  • @TheRaven: how is that conflating them? Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 1:34
  • @TheRaven: Not to mention "pera-pera" to describe fluent, rapid speech.
    – Robusto
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 20:17
  • I believe the conflation, @Mechanicalsnail, is that while these words are not onomatopoeic, they are used as sound effects. Although, I would argue that koron-koron actually sounds like a bouncing/rolling object. We get the curious case of Chocolate Collon as a result of this association (imagine a little log-shaped cookie rolling down a hill koron-koron-koron…): amazon.com/Glico-Collon-Biscuit-Chocolate-Flavoured/dp/…
    – Taj Moore
    Commented Feb 17, 2015 at 17:33

This Wikipedia article may be helpful.

Of the various terms mentioned in the article, phenomime might be close to what you are looking for.

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