English Language Blog

Onomatopoeia: The sounds we make and how to spell them Posted by on Jun 24, 2014 in English Language

I’ve written about onomatopoeia in the past, but focused mainly on animal and ‘thing’-related sounds. Today we are going to look at some of the sounds that humans make and how they are spelled. First of all take a look at this great infographic from Grammar.net and all the examples it has of onomatopoeia. (Remember: onomatopoeia is a word that imitates a natural sound.)


Image from http://www.grammar.net/hi-res.

There are three examples of human sounds in the picture above: giggle, gurgle, and hiccup, but there are so many more examples of human-made onomatopoeia I want to share with you. Below is a more extensive list.

Sounds humans make and how to write these sounds as words:

achoo (or atchoo) – the sound of sneezing
ah (or ahhhhhhhhhh) – a sound that expresses relief or relaxation
aha – the sound we make when we discover something (Example: Aha, there are my keys!)
arg – a sound used to express upset or pain
bah – this is used to express contempt, disdain or severe upset
boo –  a sound made when startling someone or trying to surprise them
burr – the sound a person makes to indicate he or she is cold
chomp – the sound of taking a bite
crunch – the sound made when eating crunchy food like crackers or chips; also the sound of footsteps on hard stones like gravel
d’oh – a sound made when someone suddenly realizes they have made a foolish mistake; Homer Simpson is famous for making this sound, you can hear him do this here:


eek – the sound a person makes when he or she is scared; this sound is often made when someone is scared by something small like a mouse, not when being scared by something big like a bear
glug – the sound of swallowing a lot of liquid quickly
ha-ha – the sound of laughter
humpf (or humph) – an expression of stubbornness, doubt, or contempt
hooray (or hurrah) – an exclamation of joy
huh – a sound that expresses confusion; this sound is usually made to invite someone to respond or provide more information
ooh – an expression of amazement, wonder, or understanding
phew – a sound related to fatigue or being tired
shoo – a sound made when trying to drive something (usually an animal) away (Exmpale: Shoo, shoo, get out of here.)
sniff – the sound of smelling
ta-da (or ta-dah) – a sound that means ‘here it is’ or ‘all done look at this’; this sound is usually made after completing something
uggh – an exclamation of frustration and annoyance
uh-huh – a sound that is used to indicate agreement
uh-oh – an expression of concern or dismay that something unexpected just happened
wahoo – an exclamation of joy and enthusiasm
yikes – an expression that indicates shock and usually has a negative connotation
yippee – a sound made to indicate delight (Example: Yippee, I just learned a lot of new English words!)

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About the Author: Gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.


  1. ben:

    nice to meet you! hope you respond. I’m in Korea. thanks for your contributions to education!

    • gabriele:

      @ben Ben, Nice to meet you. I’m glad you are enjoying the blog! -Gabriele

  2. George:

    Yippee. 😉 hey! Am George Uzoma from Nigeria. Thank u very much Gabriele for ur blog. It is helpful. Hope u reply me too. Takecare.

    • Gabriele:

      @George George,
      You are very welcome. I’m glad this blog has been helpful to you!
      Take care,

  3. Kelly:

    I’m a 23 year old College student. I love creative writing and I think even native English speakers really need lessons on how to spell the sounds we make. It helps bring stories to life.

  4. Ashna:

    I am a seventh grader. I love to write stories. I have written a story for the Flickering Flames, book written entirely by students of my school. It is published in the name of Kinjal Goyal.
    I feel that when we write we need to be immensely careful of grammar and spellings. This site helped me to write a scene of another story am writing.
    Thanks a lot.

  5. Suzie:

    What would the spelling for this emoji ?

  6. Otacimar Cardoso:

    Hi! Gabriele.

    I´d like to know If “MAKE A SOUND” is an expression in English Language?
    I really thank, for your help.

  7. Carol:

    Hello Gabriele. What would be the sound someone makes when scared by something big like a bear? Or a ghost? How would you spell it please?
    Thank you,
    Carol in Missouri