I'm writing a story about a paranormal tornado and the story starts at a basketball game, but when the lights shut off and the warning sirens start, I don't know what sound effect (onomatopoeia) to use. Could you help me find something?

  • Do lights make a sound when they turn off? Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 14:55
  • 1
    The lights of a stadium or of a basketball court do make a sound... But I have never heard it named specifically. You could describe it as a thud noise of lights turning off...
    – fev
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 14:59
  • Same question as last time: You say "sound effect," but you're looking for actual, valid words, not something like "skchunk"? (Also, can you clarify what the sound in question sounds like: my first thought is the loud, percussive "chonk" sound presumably made by some sort of solenoid.) Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 14:59
  • When ever big stadium lights turn off together, like when the power goes out they make a sound. Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 14:59
  • Could you guys post it as an answer not a comment so I can accept it Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 15:01

4 Answers 4


Assuming that the question is asking along the parameters that I believe it is, then "thunk," "clunk," and "clank" convey how much treble is in the sound, from least to most. "Thud" has also been suggested, which conveys a less abrupt cessation to the sound.

  • Maybe even an “echoing thunk” youtu.be/6KuL3mT2Wqg Or “reverberating thunk”
    – Jim
    Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 17:46
  • Adding adjectives would be nice, but the question was tagged single-word-requests Commented Oct 20, 2021 at 17:58

When a large bank of lights (or any other large-scale electrical phenomenon) is shut off, normally transformers shut down and that makes a loud "clunking" sound, like a large metallic object has just been dropped into its position in a much larger machine. Which is pretty close to what happens.


It sounds to me like "Whumpf":

Whumpf! Is a low frequency, slow exhalation sound that lasts about ½ a second - Perhaps like "B-hhh!"

From Avalanche-center.org https://www.avalanche-center.org/Education/glossary/whumpf.php


Also: Whumpfing, Collapsing, Cracking, Settling (misused)

When there is a weakness buried in the snowpack which has a lot of air space between grains and which is weak under compression a "whumpf" sound may be heard when this weak layer fails and air is compressed out of it.

This may or may not be accompanied by the appearance of shooting cracks.

This sound, with or without cracking, usually indicates a highly unstable situation. The types of failures which produce this "whumpf" sound are ones which can propagate great distances, including upslope from a runout zone.


This is what a 1200 amp light switch looks like. The high-voltage contactors open as the ac voltage crosses over at 0 Volts so they don't spark, but that means they have to open really fast with a big thunk.

enter image description here

  • 'Thunk' has already been given. Commented Apr 30, 2022 at 18:05

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