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Onomatopoeia essentially refers to the process of making a word on the basis of an actual sound heard out in the world. For example, a cuckoo is called a cuckoo because it makes that sound; and the same can be said with regard to the verb sizzle. It is possible that this is how some of the earliest words of human language were first created: through the imitation of Nature, or sounds actually heard over the course of experience. 

Onomatopoeia - A clear definition

Onomatopoeia is a funny sounding word that actually describes other funny sounding words. Do you want to know more about this literary term?

An onomatopoeia is a word that has been derived from the actual sound made by the object of the word. 

For example, the word "sizzle" is an onomatopoeia, because it is derived from the sound that a food cooked over a hot flame actually makes. Often times, it conveys imagery that the reader can visualize.

Uses of the term

For your reference, here are a few examples of the term onomatopoeia being used correctly within the context of sentences. 

"When the man heard the frog jump into the pond, he realized for the first time in his life that the word plop was actually an onomatopoeia derived from the specific sound that he had just perceived a moment ago." 

"The poet tried to convince his friends that the word juice was actually an onomatopoeia; but they were all convinced that he just had an overactive imagination." 

"The scholar began to wonder about the extent to which all language has onomatopoeia at its very bottom: for example, whether there was some hidden association between every word and some sound associated with it."

In case you are still a little confused about the literary term onomatopoeia, here are a couple rules you can follow when making use of it. 

1. An onomatopoeia is simply a word that is related to the sound made by the object referred to by the word. For example, the word plop actually refers to the sound "plop"; the word sizzle to the actually sound of sizzling; and so on. When someone writes out a sneeze as "achoo", this would be another example. Anytime you find a word like this, you have found an onomatopoeia.

2. Sometimes, though, whether a word is an onomatopoeia or not can be open to debate. This is because different people have different imaginations; and where one person may perceive a connection between the word and a specific related sound, another person may see nothing at all. Some words are more obviously characterized by onomatopoeia than other words. And there are several words that could be considered borderline cases of onomatopoeia (as in the case of many other types of metaphors).

Roots in language

Onomatopoeia is surely linked to the foundations of language formation. For example, it is possible that at some level, human speech was strongly influenced by human beings' capacities to mimic the sounds they heard in their environments. If those sounds eventually became words, then all those words could have been defined as onomatopoeia. From such a point, language surely became more abstract and less directly connected to the physical objects to which it referred. All the same, though, onomatopoeia could be understood as a remnant of the primitive roots of language formation. 

In addition, an onomatopoeia may on occasion just be invented as a result of a writer not knowing how else to convey a particular impression. This may be especially common in children's books, since children may easily recognize the specific sound but not a more sophisticated description corresponding to that sound. Onomatopoeia often has a "silly" or humorous connotation, since it seems to imply a regress away from the use of fully developed language and toward a much more primitive conception of the world. 

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