Jul 01 2013


Published by at 7:30 am under Vocalizations


Onomatopoeia is a six-syllable word that's hard to read but easy to say:  On ah ma ta PEE ah      (Click here to hear it pronounced in U.S. English)

It comes from two Greek words: "name" (?????) and "I make" (?????) and means, literally, "I make my name."

The meaning is obvious when you consider some birds with onomatopoetic names:  bobwhite, chickadee and hoopoe.

Since we don't have hoopoes in North America you might not know what they sound like.  Play the video to hear how the hoopoe got his name.

Can you think of other onomatopoetic bird names?


(video from YouTube)

7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Onomatopoeia”

  1. Chuck Tagueon 01 Jul 2013 at 8:03 am

    The hoopoes generic name is also onomatopoetic so its scientific name is both poetic and onomatopoetic — “Upupa epops”. North American birds with onomatopoetic names include Killdeer, flicker, chickadee, bobwhite, phoebe, pewee, Whip-poor-will, Chuck-will’s-widow, curlews, and possibly the word “owl”. The verb “to hum” is onomatopoetic so hummingbird could be included also. Many more common, folk and scientific names have origins that are onomatopoetic. Saw-whet Owls is not. It got its name from a corruption of Canadian French for little bird, “oiseauette”.

  2. Kate St. Johnon 01 Jul 2013 at 8:14 am

    Very cool, Chuck. I had heard the wrong explanation about saw-whets. Thanks for clearing that up.

  3. George Bercikon 01 Jul 2013 at 9:05 am

    Thanks Chuck. I too was under the impression that the “saw- whet” tag referred to the similarity of its call to filing saw teeth.

  4. Art from Hershey PAon 01 Jul 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Kate……..neat video. I have a friend from Tel Aviv, who visits the US on occasion for business. He’s a computer consultant. He usually brings me a gift from home and one of them was a T-shirt with a hoopoe on it. 🙂


  5. Kate St. Johnon 01 Jul 2013 at 5:52 pm

    I like how the hoopoe bows his head when he says his name.

  6. Kathieon 01 Jul 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Love hoopoes (the bird designed by a committee) but sadly not paid much attention to their call. Thanks for the video, I’ll be better prepared for the next trip to India.

  7. Honchkrowon 27 Oct 2013 at 9:30 pm

    There’s a Brazilian bird called “Bem-te-vi” (Great Kiskadee in English) that has a song just like its Portuguese name.

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