enter image description here

What is this called? How do we say oscillogram of the sound in one word?

5 Answers 5


The visual display of a sound wave can take many forms. You ask what the "graphical representation of a sound" is called, and you show an example. There are different terms for different forms of graphical representations of sound, for example sonogram, (audio)spectrogram, waveform, (audio) oscillogram. Which one to use is a technical matter.

One form is usually called a sonogram, or alternatively an (audio)spectrogram in technical usage:

A spectrogram is a time-varying spectral representation that shows how the spectral density of a signal varies with time. Also known as spectral waterfalls, sonograms, voiceprints, or voicegrams, spectrograms are used to identify phonetic sounds, to analyse the cries of animals; they were also used in many other fields including music, sonar/radar, speech processing, seismology, etc

enter image description here

This image shows Time (X axis) vs. Frequency (Y axis).

However, the picture you show in your question is different, called an (audio) oscillogram or a waveform:

Waveform means the shape and form of a signal such as a wave moving in a physical medium or an abstract representation. In many cases the medium in which the wave is being propagated does not permit a direct visual image of the form. In these cases, the term 'waveform' refers to the shape of a graph of the varying quantity against time or distance

enter image description here

This image, like yours, shows Time (X axis) vs. Amplitude (Y axis) and is generally called a waveform or oscillogram. Use "audio" if you want to refer specifically to the waveform of a sound as opposed to some other signal.

EDITED thanks to input from commenters.

  • 1
    I suspect the word sonogram is being taken over by medical imaging; and so is being replaced by spectrogram. Mar 18, 2012 at 17:30
  • 2
    That picture is neither a sonogram nor a spectrogram, however - it is a waveform. A sonogram/spectrogram is a time vs. frequency plot, whereas a waveform is a time vs. signal level plot.
    – fluffy
    Mar 18, 2012 at 17:53
  • 3
    Looks like time (in samples) on the X axis and signal level on the Y axis. If it were a spectrum plot the signal level wouldn't be centered on 0.0. Also, the original question referred to it as an "oscillogram" which implies oscillations or being an oscilloscope-equivalent - thus, a continuous signal plot (i.e. waveform), NOT something in the frequency domain. I do a lot of audio work and am very familiar with how different things look.
    – fluffy
    Mar 18, 2012 at 20:18
  • 1
    No it's not, I'm with fluffy. This is clearly in the time domain, not the frequency domain!!!!! Plus the amplitudes are negative (not something you will see in a sonogram). IT IS NOT A SONOGRAM!
    – Lucas
    Mar 21, 2012 at 4:27
  • 1
    Also @Lucas it's worth noting that in a sonogram or spectrum plot, you actually CAN see negative amplitudes, if it's using the decibel scale - generally you either have your Y axis such that 0dB is peak (i.e. most everything will be negative, and anything >0 represents an over-spec signals which will generally - but not always - clip in the digital domain) or representing SPL (i.e. 0dB is extremely quiet, but still not totally silent). 0dB peak is actually the most common representation you'll see.
    – fluffy
    Mar 22, 2012 at 5:22

A common word I hear used a lot in music production is Waveform.


Since you need a word that would indicate sound, then it would be as simple as "audio waveform", since plain waveform could indicate any kind of waves.

I would also like to point out that a sonogram is not the same as a waveform, since sonogram in two dimensions represents intensity vs time and in three dimensions intensity vs frequency vs time.

  • You say "sonogram in two dimensions represents intensity vs time"; frequency vs. time is commonly used as I have shown above. Mar 21, 2012 at 12:06

Can it be called a graph? As I understand it, it's a temporal graph, whilst a spectral graph shows frequency along the X axis. Aren't they two different ways of looking at a waveform? If you can call the basic sine wave a graph (and you can, can't you?), why can't you call the waveform depiction a graph? (My lecturer says it's not a graph perse (sic), but there's lots of arguments to support that it is a 'graph'). It's got two axes. It's on a co-ordinate plane. It represents data or values in an organized manner. The points on it represent the relationship between two or more things. It's a graph!

  • As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Aug 7, 2023 at 3:02

I think oscillogram is the best you'll get.

  • perhaps acousto-oscillogram ?!?!
    – Lucas
    Mar 21, 2012 at 4:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.