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onomatopoeia(ŏn'əmăt'əpē`ə) [Gr.,=word-making], in language, the representation of a sound by an imitation thereof; e.g., the cat mews. Poets often convey the meaning of a verse through its very sound. For example, in "Song of the Lotus-Eaters" Tennyson indicates the slow, sensuous, and langorous life of the Lotus-Eaters by the sound of the words he uses to describe the land in which they live:
Onomatopoeia can also represent harsh and unpleasant sounds, as in Browning's "Meeting at Night":Here are cool mosses deep,
And through the moss the ivies creep,
And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,
And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep.
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match.
in linguistics, sound-imitative words that develop out of a phonetic similarity to combinations of nonverbal sounds—for example, Russian miaukat’, “to meow” (from miau, “meow”). The term “onomatopoeia” also refers to the method by which sound-imitative words are formed, as well as to a particular type of onomatopoeic, or reduplicative, word. Often, “onomatopoeia” designates the conventional verbal imitation of the sound associated with a living or nonliving thing (ku-ku, “cuckoo”; bum-bum, “boom-boom”; a devitsa—khi-khi-khi! da kha-kha-kha! “And the girl goes ‘Hee, hee, hee!’ and ‘Ha, ha, ha!’ “). Onomatopoeia is used in poetry to create an image based on sound:
Budu akat’, budu okat’,
Kapliu-step’ voz’mu pod lokot’,
Kon’ poidet podkovoi tsokat’,
Ekat’ selezenkoiu. (A. Tarkovskii)