Thursday, May 31, 2007

Onomatopoeic words

Onomatopoeic words are words that seem to sound like their meaning. The most obvious examples are verbs relating to the noises that animals make, e.g., cows moo and cats meow.

Certain combination or letters have particular sound associations in English.

  • cl- (suggest something sharp and/or metallic)
    • click [make a short, sharp sound]
    • clang [make a loud ringing noise]
    • clash [make a loud, broken, confused sound]
    • clink [make the sound of small bits of metal/glass knocking together]
  • gr- (suggest something unpleasant or miserable)
    • groan [to make a deep sound forced out by pain or despair]
    • grumble [to complain in a bad-tempered way]
    • grumpy [bad tempered or moody]
    • grunt [to make a low, rough sound like pigs do]
    • growl [to make a deep, threatening sound]
  • sp- (have an association with water or other liquids or powders)
    • splash [cause a liquid to fly up in the air in drops]
    • spit [send liquid out from the mouth]
    • splutter [make a series of spitting sounds]
    • spray [send liquid thorough the air in a mist]
    • sprinkle [scatter small drops]
    • spurt [come out in a sudden burst]
  • wh- (suggests the movement of air)
    • whistle [a high-pitched noise made through a small opening]
    • whirr [sound like a bird’s wings moving rapidly]
    • whiz [make the sound of something rushing through air]
    • wheeze [breathe noisily, especially with a whistling sound in the chest]
    • whip [long piece of rope or leather; or to hit with one of these]
  • -ash (suggest something fast and violent)
    • smash [break violently into small pieces]
    • dash [move or be moved quickly or violently]
    • crash [suddenly strike violently and noisily]
    • mash [make soft or pulpy by beating or crushing]
    • gash [a long, deep cut or wound]
  • -ckle, -ggle, -zzle (suggest something light and repeated)
    • trickle [flow slowly in a thin stream or in drops]
    • crackle [make a series of short, sharp sounds]
    • tinkle [make a series of light ringing sounds]
    • giggle [laugh lightly]
    • wriggle [move with quick, short twisting]
    • sizzle [make a hissing sound like something cooking in fat]
    • drizzle [small, fine rain]

Learning Vocabulary - general advice

What does knowing a new word mean?
It is not enough just to know the meaning of a word. You also need to know:
  1. which words it is usually associated with
  2. its grammatical characteristics
  3. how it is pronounced
Try to learn new words in phrases, not in isolation.
  • Write down adjectives and nouns that are often associated, e.g., classical music, flying saucer, common sense.
  • Write down verbs and nouns that form expressions, e.g., to express an opinion; to take sides.
  • Write down nouns in appropriate phrases, e.g., in touch with; a sense of humor.
  • Write down words with their prepositions, e.g., at a loss for words; thanks to you.
  • Note special grammatical characteristics of new words. For example, note irregular verbs, e.g., take, took, taken; uncountable nouns, e.g., luggage; or nouns that are used only in the plural, e.g., clothes.
  • Note any special pronunciation problems of new words.