Share on Facebook

7 Words You Never Realized Were Examples of Onomatopoeia

You know the classic examples of onomatopoeias like “boom,” “splat,” and “pow,” but you probably never realized that these words you use every day are also onomatopoeias.

Estrada Anton/Shutterstock


The original onomatopoeias for the action of forcefully expelling air out of your mouth and nose were “fneosan” and “fnese.” Saying that out loud sounds a lot like a sneeze, right? The “f” was mistaken for an “s” on Old English manuscripts and the words were changed to “sneosan” and “snese.” Then, it was eventually modernized to “sneeze,” making it one of the under-the-radar onomatopoeia examples. Once you learn about these examples of onomatopoeia, make sure you also brush up on the homophones people confuse all the time.

Eliot Holzworth/Shutterstock


The technical term for a blimp is actually “dirigible.” The name “blimp” came to be when a British lieutenant was inspecting one of the aircrafts and snapped his thumb off of the gasbag. The snap on the taut fabric created a noise that he interpreted as “blimp,” and since then, dirigibles have been known as blimps.

Milosz Maslanka/Shutterstock


A cliché is a phrase that is used over and over again—we’re all guilty of saying them. In the 1800s, a French printer decided to make plates with common sayings on them that they could use repeatedly so they wouldn’t have to rewrite it every time. The noise the plate made when printing the words sounded like “cliché.” This is one of the more surprising onomatopoeia examples. So you’ll probably also be impressed by the surprising origins of slang words that you use all the time.

Geoffrey Newland/Shutterstock


Similar to the word “sneeze,” the word “owl” has gone through a few different spellings. Its original spelling is what makes it one of the examples of onomatopoeia. The noun given to this bird was “uwwa” because of the noise it makes. “Uwwa” was eventually changed to “uwwalon” and then to “owl.”

WAYHOME studio/Shutterstock


The word, meaning a stupid person, is meant to sound like a person puffing out their cheeks. It originally comes from the Italian word “buffare,” which actually translates to a person puffing out their cheeks. It all connects because in the 1500s, buffoon was a style of comedic dance where people would puff out their cheeks to look more foolish. Check out the origin of these common idioms.

Carefree joyful handsome Afro American man with bushy hairstyle and bristle having shining eyes opening his mouth with joy bursting into laughing. Positive human expressions, emotions and feelingsWAYHOME studio/Shutterstock


Early Europeans used the word “hlaehhan” to indicate laughter (think “hahaha”). It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but does sound a little bit like someone laughing. “Hlaehhan” was eventually modernized, and after dropping letters and adding some new ones, the word “laugh” came to be.

Bumblebee, bombus terrestrisAnt Cooper/Shutterstock


Before speakers settled on “bumblebee,” this little creature was referred to as “humblebee,” “dumbledor,” and “bombyll.” All of them were meant to represent the buzzing of a bee. Now, you’ll be able to impress people with these words you never realized were examples of onomatopoeia. Thankfully, onomatopoeia examples don’t require these words that make you sound stupid.

Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is an Associate Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. She writes for, helps lead the editorial relationship with our partners, manages our year-round interns, and keeps the hundreds of pieces of content our team produces every month organized. In her free time, she likes exploring the seacoast of Maine where she lives and works remotely full time and snuggling up on the couch with her corgi, Eggo, to watch HGTV or The Office.