Oxford English Dictionary
1.a. The formation of a word from a sound associated with the thing or action being named; the formation of words imitative of sounds.
"Early words may have formed by onomatopoeia, as in bow-wow for dog, cuckoo for the familiar bird and whoosh for a puff of wind." (Scientific American 1991.
2. The use of echoic or suggestive language, esp. onomatopes, for rhetorical effect. Occas. in Music: the use of imitative or echoic instrumentation, rhythms, etc
onomatope: A word formed by onomatopoeia.
Onomatopoeia in classic poetry:
Gwendolyn Brooks, "Cynthia in the Snow"
In the last lines of Sir Alfred Tennyson's poem
'Come Down, O Maid', m and n sounds produce an atmosphere of
Also Tennyson's Morte D’Arthur:
I heard the ripple washing in the reeds
wild water lapping on the crag.
Examples of onomatopoeic words:
chirp, click, clink, cock-a-doodle-doo
fizz, flicker, flutter
giggle, growl, gurgle
harrumph, hiccup, hiss, honk, hum
meow, moo, mumble, murmur
oink, ouch, ow
ping, plop, plunk, poof, pop, purr
rattle, roar, rumble, rustle
screech, sizzle, slap, slurp, sniff, snip, snort
thud, thump, ticktock, tinkle, twang, tweet
whack, wham, whisper, woof
zap, zip, zoom
(examples adapted from http://www.examples-of-onomatopoeia.com/)
compare Phonestheme: A phoneme or group of phonemes having recognizable semantic associations, as a result of appearing in a number of words of similar meaning (Oxford English Dictionary)
For example, in words like glimmer, glitter, and glisten, the initial gl- phonestheme is associated with vision or light. (http://grammar.about.com/od/pq/g/Phonestheme.htm)
Phoneme 1b. A unit of sound in a language that cannot be analysed into smaller linear units and that can distinguish one word from another (e.g. /p/ and /b/ in English pat, bat).