WRITTEN BY KATE FINAN, CO-OWNER OF BOOM BOX POST

One of the major hurdles of becoming a sound effects editor is learning your library.  This means knowing what keywords to search in a given situation as well as building up a mental catalogue of "go-to" sounds.  

While it is always a good idea to start by looking at the picture and then thinking of descriptive words to search, it helps if you know which words will yield the best results.  This is where onomatopoeia enters the scene.  Onomatopoeia is defined as the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named (e.g. cuckoo, sizzle).  Following is a beginner's guide to onomatopoeic sound effects search words.  Some of these terms can be found in any dictionary, and some are unique to sound effect library naming conventions. 


crackle - a sound made up of a rapid succession of slight cracking sounds. Also look up: sizzle, fizz, hiss, crack, snap, fuse, fuze, burn, fire

crash - a sudden loud noise as of something breaking or hitting another object. Also look up: bang, smash, crack, bump, thud, clatter, clunk, clang, hit

bodyfall - a sound made by a body falling onto a hard surface. Also look up: body hit, land

boing - the noise representing the sound of a compressed spring suddenly released. Also look up: bounce, bouncing, bonk, jaw harp

boom - a loud, deep, resonant sound. Also look up: explosion, slam, crash, drum, taiko, rumble

buzz - a humming or murmuring sound made by or similar to that made by an insect. Also look up: hum, drone, insect, neon, fluorescent

chomp - munch or chew vigorously and noisily.  Also look up: munch, crunch, chew, bite

click - a short, sharp sound as of a switch being operated or of two hard objects coming quickly into contact. Also look up: clack, snap, pop, tick, clink, switch, button

creak - a harsh scraping or squeaking sound. Also look up: squeak, grate

flutter - the sound of flying unsteadily or hovering by flapping the wings quickly and lightly.  Also look up: beat, flap, quiver, wing

glug - the sound of drinking or pouring (liquid) with a hollow gurgling sound. Also look up: pour, drain

groan - a low creaking or moaning sound when pressure or weight is applied to an object OR an inarticulate sound in response to pain or despair. Also look up: creak, squeak; moan, cry, whimper

honk - the cry of a wild goose. Also look up: gander, goose

ahoogah - the sound of a particular type of horn.  Also look up: model a, model t, antique horn, bulb horn

jingle - a light ringing sound such as that made by metal objects being shaken together.  Also look up: clink, chink, tinkle, jangle, chime, sleigh bells

neigh - a characteristic high-pitched sound uttered by a horse. Also look up: whinny, bray, knicker

poof - used to convey the suddenness with which someone or something disappears.  Also look up: puff

pop - a light explosive sound. Also look up: bubble, cork, jug, thunk

puff - a short, explosive burst of breath or wind.  Also look up: poof, gust, blast, waft, breeze, breath

rattle - a rapid succession of short, sharp, hard sounds.  Also look up: clatter, clank, clink, clang

ribbit - the characteristic croaking sound of a frog. Also look up: frog, toad, croak

quack - the characteristic harsh sound made by a duck. Also look up: duck, mallard

rustle - a soft, muffled crackling sound like that made by the movement of dry leaves, paper, cloth, or similar material.  Also look up: swish, whisper, movement, mvmt

rumble - a continuous deep, resonant sound.  Also look up: boom, sub, earthquake

scream - a long, loud, piercing cry expressing extreme emotion or pain.  Also look up: shriek, screech, yell, howl, shout, bellow, bawl, cry, yelp, squeal, wail, squawk

screech - a loud, harsh, piercing cry.  Also look up: shriek, scream, squeal

skid - an act of skidding or sliding.  Also look up: slide, drag

slurp - a loud sucking sound made while eating or drinking.  Also look up: suck, drink, straw, lick

splash - a sound made by something striking or falling into liquid.  Also look up: spatter, bespatter, splatter, bodyfall water

splat - a sound made by a wet object hitting a hard surface.  Also look up: squish

splatter - splash with a sticky or viscous liquid.  Also look up: splash, squish, splat, spray

squawk - a loud, harsh or discordant noise made by a bird or a person.  Also look up: screech, squeal, shriek, scream, croak, crow, caw, cluck, cackle, hoot, cry, call

squeak - a short, high-pitched sound or cry.   Also look up: peep, cheep, pipe, squeal, tweet, yelp, whimper, creak

squish - a soft squelching sound. Also look up: splat, splatter

swish - a light sound of an object moving through the air.  Also look up: whoosh, swoosh

swoosh - the sound produced by a sudden rush of air. Also look up: swish, whoosh

thunk - the sound of a cork being pull out of or placed into a bottle or jug.  Also look up: pop, cork, jug

twang - a strong ringing sound such as that made by the plucked string of a musical instrument, a released bowstring, or a ruler held steady on one end and plucked from the other.  Also look up: ruler twang, boing twang, ripple, pluck, violin, guitar

whip crack - the loud and sudden sound of a whip moving faster than the speed of sound, creating a small sonic boom. Also look up: bull whip, whip, swish, whoosh, swoosh

whoosh - a heavy sound of an object moving through the air. Also look up: swish, swoosh

woof - the sound made by a barking dog.  Also look up: bark, howl, yelp, whimper, dog

yelp - a short sharp cry, especially of pain or alarm.  Also look up: squeal, shriek, howl, yowl, yell, cry, shout

zap - a sudden burst of energy or sound.  Also look up: laser, beam, synth, sci-fi

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