The key difference between onomatopoeia and alliteration is that onomatopoeia is imitating natural sounds of things, animals, or humans, while alliteration is the repetition of the same initial consonant sound in nearby words.
Both these are literary devices and are used in literary works, day-to-day conversations, marketing, and entertainment industries. Moreover, alliterations are used as tongue twisters to improve pronunciation skills. Onomatopoeic words sometimes differ based on different languages.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Onomatopoeia
3. What is Alliteration
4. Onomatopoeia vs Alliteration in Tabular Form
5. Summary – Onomatopoeia vs Alliteration
What is Onomatopoeia?
The word onomatopoeia originated in Greece and is a combination of the words ὀνοματοποιία, which means “name” and ποιέω, which means “I make”. It is referred to as a sound that phonetically imitates, copies, or mimics the natural sounds of a thing or living being. This makes the description more expressive and effective. Some common onomatopoeic words include,
- A pig’s oink
- A cat’s meow
- A lion’s roar
- A bird’s chirp
Onomatopoeia words depend on different languages; for example, the following words express the sound of a clock in different languages:
- In English – tick tock
- In Mandarin – dí dā
- In Japanese – katchin katchin
- In Hindi – tik tik
- In Spanish and Italian – tic tac
Examples from everyday usage,
Examples from Onomatopoeia in Literature
This technique is frequently used in literature.
- “Hark, hark!
The watch-dogs bark!
Hark, hark! I hear
The strain of strutting chanticleer
(The Tempest by William Shakespeare)
- “The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees…”
(Come Down, O Maid by Alfred Lord Tennyson)
- “He saw nothing and heard nothing but he could feel his heart pounding and then he heard the clack on stone and the leaping, dropping clicks of a small rock falling.”
(For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway)
What is Alliteration?
Alliteration is the repetition of the initial consonant sound in two or more nearby words. This does not refer to the repetition of the initial consonant letters but the initial consonant sound only. For example, the words ‘kids’ and ‘coats’. These two words have the same consonant sound though the initial consonant letters are different.
Often alliterations are tongue twisters. They are frequently used by public speakers, politicians, and actors for speech clarity and as verbal exercises. They can be used to increase children’s interest in language learning and for the improvement of their pronunciation as well. Some famous alliterative tongue twisters include,
- Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
- There was a fisherman named Fisher, Who fished for some fish in a fissure.
Till a fish with a grin, Pulled the fisherman in. Now they’re fishing the fissure for Fisher.
Alliterations are used in everyday speech, in the entertainment industry, advertising, and marketing fields as well. Some examples include:
- Picture perfect
- Big business
- No nonsense
- Jumping jacks
- Rocky road
Advertising and marketing,
- Coca Cola
- Weight Watchers
Movie characters or names,
- Fantastic Four
- Wonder woman
- Peter Parker
- Mickey Mouse
- Bugs Bunny
Examples of Alliteration in Literature
“From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.”
William Shakespeare – Romeo and Juliet
What is the Difference Between Onomatopoeia and Alliteration?
The key difference between onomatopoeia and alliteration is that onomatopoeia is the imitation of natural sounds, while alliteration is the repetition of the initial consonant sound in two or more nearby words. Moreover, onomatopoeic words sometimes vary from language to language, while alliterations are used as tongue twisters.
The following infographic lists the differences between onomatopoeia and alliteration in tabular form.
Summary – Onomatopoeia vs Alliteration
In summing up the difference between onomatopoeia and alliteration, we can say that onomatopoeia is imitating or miming the natural sounds of things or living beings, while alliteration is the repetition of initial consonant sounds of neighboring words. Both these literary devices are used in literature and day-to-day conversations. They are also used in the entertainment, advertisement, and marketing industries to capture the attention of the audience.
1.“Alliteration – Examples and Definition of Alliteration.” Literary Devices.
2.“Examples and Definition of Onomatopoeia.” Literary Devices.
1. “Boom-comic-comic-book-fight” (CC0) via Pixabay
2. “Peter Piper – Tongue Twisters” By attanatta (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
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