Onomatopoeia[note 1] (also onomatopeia in American English), is the process of creating a word that phonetically imitates, resembles, or suggests the sound that it describes. Such a word itself is also called an onomatopoeia. Common onomatopoeias include animal noises such as oink, meow (or miaow), roar, and chirp. Onomatopoeia can differ between languages: it conforms to some extent to the broader linguistic system;[6][7] hence the sound of a clock may be expressed as tick tock in English, tic tac in Spanish and Italian (shown in the picture), dī dā in Mandarin, katchin katchin in Japanese, or tik-tik in Hindi.

A sign in a shop window in Italy proclaims these silent clocks make "No Tic Tac", in imitation of the sound of a clock.

Although in English the term onomatopoeia means 'the imitation of a sound', the compound Greek word onomatopoeia (ὀνοματοποιία) means 'making or creating names'. The word ὴχομιμητικό (ēchomimētico) derives from ὴχώ, meaning 'echo' or 'sound', and μιμητικό, meaning 'mimetic' or 'imitating'. Thus, words that imitate sounds can be said to be onomatopoeic and echomimetic.