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Difference Between Alliteration and Onomatopoeia Poems

Both alliteration and onomatopoeia are literary devices applied in writing, for instance, poetry to create harmony and rhythm. They are also used to add musicality to a piece while also engaging the reader’s auditory senses in a fun way. However, the two do have differences between them that make them hard to be interchanged.


What is Alliteration?

Alliteration is a literary device used in literature and applies the conspicuous repetition of similar or identical consonants sounds. The repetition happens in neighboring words and in a quick succession. It can also be a repetition of associated syllables that are closely stacked within a group of words, even if they are spelled variably.

Coined by Giovanni Pontano, the Italian humanist, alliteration comes from the Latin littera, that means “letter of the alphabet.”

Examples of alliteration:

  • He lives in that humble house with her.
  • There is plenty of potential power play in that play.

A famous application of alliteration is in the famous English-language nursery rhyme, “Peter Piper Picked a peck of pickled peppers.”


What is Onomatopoeia?

Onomatopoeia comes from the Greek words ὀνοματοποιία, which means “name” and ποιέω, which means “I make”. As such, it means, as an adjective, the practice of creating words that imitate, suggest, or resemble the sounds that they describe in a phonetic way. When used as a noun, therefore, onomatopoeia refers to such words that mimic, imitate, or copy natural sounds.

The most common occurrences of onomatopoeia include in animal noises or sounds, for instance:

  • A cat’s miaow or meow.
  • A pig’s oink.
  • A lion’s roar.
  • An insect’s chirp.
  • A clock’s tick-tock.

Other examples of onomatopoeia include:

  • The croaking of a frog.
  • Zoom
  • Bang
  • Beep
  • Splash
  • Moo
  • Honk or beep-beep
  • Zap
  • Vroom or brum

Onomatopoeia differs from one language to the other, though. For example, tick tock for clock (in English) is katchin katchin in Japanese, tic tac in Spanish and Italian, tik tik in Hindi, and dī dā in Mandarin.


Difference Between Alliteration and Onomatopoeia Poems

The difference between such poems is in the way they each would apply the two literary devices.

Usage of Alliteration Vs. Onomatopoeia

An alliteration poem applies the repetition of the initial and identical consonant sounds in neighboring words and in a quick succession. An onomatopoeia poem, on the other hand, applies the imitation or mimicking or natural sounds.

Famous Writings Using Alliteration Vs. Onomatopoeia

Alliteration has been heavily used in poems since the days of Shakespeare. Some of the famous poems to have used alliteration include:

  • The Raven by Edgar All Poe, for example, “And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain.”
  • Acquainted with the Night by Robert Frost, that is, in the line,

“The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew

  The furrow followed free”.

  • As You Like It, a William Shakespeare’s play uses alliteration in the lines,

“And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind

  Which, when it bites and blows upon my body”.

Onomatopoeia has been used mostly in children’s poetry books even though other poetic applications apply too. The examples include:

  • The old train rumble down the old truck.
  • The tires screeched from a distance.
  • The worn-out wooden floor screeched every time they stepped on it.

Also, in the poem I, She, and the Sea by Dr. Tapan Kumar Pradhan, onomatopoeia is evident in different lines including,

“For the hearts beneath our skins did throb

     As the surf surged up, the sun swept shore.”

Alliteration Vs. Onomatopoeia Poems: Comparison Table


Summary of Alliteration Vs. Onomatopoeia Poems

Both alliteration and onomatopoeia are applied in literary works to create musicality. They also help to create rhythm while engaging the readers’ and audiences’ auditory senses. However, it is clear they are different when used in poetry, as well as in other literary voices. The poems, therefore, are different too depending on what they use between the two devices.


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References :

[0]"What Is The Difference Between Alliteration And Onomatopoeia?". Wisegeek, 2019, https://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-difference-between-alliteration-and-onomatopoeia.htm.

[1]"Write About". Writeabout.Com, 2019, https://www.writeabout.com/ideas/alliteration-and-onomatopoeia/.

[2]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AS-NZ-poem.jpg

[3]Image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_poetry#/media/File:Beowulf.firstpage.jpeg

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