Using onomatopoeic words to convey meaning

Word of the day:



I always find this word rolls off my tongue in a slightly unpleasant way. In that sense I always feel it’s an onomatopoeic word as it is odious in both sound and meaning.

Only German efficiency could have come up with a word that perfectly describes the exact meaning for the circumstance. English of course has heavy Germanic influences as well as those from the Latin languages that tie large swathes of the world together by having at least some commonality in the root meaning of their language. 

Schadenfreude is the perfect word of the day when discussing onomatopoeic use in writing because the tone and meaning of the word are so closely tied and because it is somehow a deliciously satisfying word to use, almost a dirty word. Writers have a great capacity to use language to influence the reader by careful and subtle insertions of words that will invoke nuanced meaning and ideas in the reader. Of course this influence is not limited to onomatopoeic words, writers have the ability if writing well and if they possess a wide vocabulary to guide the reader by showing them hidden meaning and context within the novel. Subtlety in writing is a beautiful thing to behold, like watching a sunflower turn with the sun’s path through the day. 


image sourced from: Writers Write

About V C Willow

V C Willow has always loved to write and read for pleasure. During her teenage years she wrote a lot of poetry but graduated to writing Science Fiction, Fantasy, Epic Fiction, Urban Fantasy and Suspense as she reached her twenties. She is a geek and comic nerd. A very keen reader, an enthusiastic cook and gardener and loves to craft. She's even been known to get down and dirty and do some DIY. V.C live in Manchester, England with her ball of cat fluff, Willow. She is currently writing her début fantasy novel. You can follow her authors page on Facebook at: Connect with her on Linked in at: Follow her on Twitter: Follow her on Goodreads: )O(
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2 Responses to Using onomatopoeic words to convey meaning

  1. Sorry, VC, certainly I agree that one of the talents of writers is to demonstrate the ability to “compose music through words,” but this is not one of them. An example of onomatopoeic use would be “frazzle,” or “guzzle.” These are words that sound like their definition.

    I agree with you that the German language is self-defining, I must add that the language is quite literal, the concept that one word can have two meanings and that its meaning can and is derived from its use in the sentence is something that would “frazzle” a German, non-English-speaker’s mind. Were I a surgeon, with a patient lying in front of me on whom I was performing surgery, I might say,, “Once we open the patient’s belly, with imaging guidance, we’ll be able to weed out the foreign object.”, the German mind would think, “What? There are weeds growing in this man’s belly?” (By the way, medical terminology, also Latin based), is the self-defining, plus adding one handy element; through its suffix, and that is to advise us what part of speech the word is.)

    While I agree wholeheartedly with you that the talented writer uses words that are able to subtly manipulate the readers’ emotions and reactions to any given character, plot line, description or ending to a piece, I would add that writers actually “compose” with WORDs, much in the manner that Sibelius composed images of the fjords with swans coming from afar, landing on a lake that mirrors the sky, and — with some unseen signal — a sudden churning of water as the birds start their “run-up” toward flight and then their lift-off, their movement into formation and their disappearance into the sunset. Onomatopoeia would probably be represented by the percussion section, as in “Belch!”

    Your points are most excellently put. I think, however, that your example of onomatopoeia is a bit wanting.

    Good to “see you!” It’s been quite a long time! How go things with you?


    • V C Willow says:

      Hi Jen

      Thanks for your comments, although onomatopoeic words traditionally ‘sound’ like the meaning of their words, I think we can expand from that orthodox position to include words that don’t make a physical sound like the meaning of the world, however they do ‘sound’ like their meaning in that they do invoke the meaning of the word through the sound of the word.

      Kindest regards


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