106 Ways To Describe Sounds

106 Ways To Describe Sounds


According to Oxford Dictionary, to hear is to ‘perceive with the ear the sound made by (someone or something)’. Sounds are ‘vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person’s ear’.

You have to use the five senses when you write. Readers want to experience what your characters see, smell, hear, taste, and touch. Using the senses is one of the best ways for writers to learn how to show and not tell.

Writers Write is your one-stop resource for writers and we have written about words that describe taste, and touch in previous posts. In this post I have included words that describe sounds.

General Words Describing Sounds

  1. audible – a sound that is loud enough to hear
  2. broken – a sound that has spaces in it
  3. emit – to make a sound
  4. grinding – a sound of one hard thing moving against another
  5. hushed – a sound that is quiet
  6. inaudible – a sound that is difficult to hear
  7. monotonous – a sound that is always the same and never gets louder or quieter, or higher or lower
  8. muffled – a sound that is not easy to hear because it is blocked by something
  9. plaintive – a sound that has a sad quality
  10. rhythmic – a sound that has a clear, regular pattern
  11. staccato – a sound where each word or sound is clearly separate

Describing Pleasing Sounds

  1. dulcet – soft and pleasant
  2. lilting – a sound that has a rising and falling pattern
  3. listenable – easy to listen to
  4. mellow – a soft, smooth, pleasant sound
  5. melodic – beautiful sound
  6. musical – sounds like music
  7. pure – a clear, beautiful sound
  8. rich – a sound that is strong in a pleasant way
  9. soft – quiet and peaceful
  10. sonorous – a sound that is deep and strong in a pleasant way
  11. sweet – a pleasant sound

Describing Noisy Sounds

  1. at full blast – as loudly as possible
  2. almighty – used for emphasising how loud something is
  3. brassy – a sound that is loud and unpleasant
  4. deafening – a sound so loud you cannot hear anything else
  5. ear-splitting – extremely loud
  6. explosive – a sound that is loud and unexpected
  7. howling – a continuous, low, loud noise
  8. insistent – a continuous, loud, strong noise
  9. loud – a sound that is strong and very easy to hear
  10. noisy – a sound that is full of noise
  11. percussive – a sound that is short, like someone hitting a drum
  12. piercing – a sound that is very  loud, high, and unpleasant
  13. pulsating – strong, regular pattern
  14. raucous – rude, violent, noisy
  15. resounding – a sound that is loud and that continues for a while
  16. riotous – lively and noisy
  17. roaring – a deep, loud noise
  18. rowdy – noisy and causing trouble
  19. sharp – a sound that is sudden and loud
  20. shrill – a sound that is loud, high, and unpleasant
  21. thundering – extremely loud
  22. thunderous – loud
  23. tumultuous –  a sound that includes noise, excitement, activity, or violence
  24. uproarious – extremely noisy

Words That Help You Show And Not Tell

Many of these words that help you show and not tell are examples of onomatopoeia. These words imitate natural sounds. ‘It creates a sound effect that mimics the thing described, making the description more expressive and interesting.’

Here are some examples:

  • The bees buzzed outside my window.
  • The wind sighed.
  • The leaves crackled and crunched under his feet.

Use this list to make your writing come alive.

  1. babble – a gentle, pleasant sound of water as it moves along in a river
  2. bang – to move, making loud noises
  3. beep – a short high sound or several short high sounds
  4. blare – to make a loud and unpleasant noise
  5. blast – to make a loud sound with a car horn
  6. bleep – a short high sound or several short high sounds
  7. boom – to make a deep loud sound that continues for some time
  8. caterwaul – an unpleasant loud high noise
  9. chime – a high ringing sound like a bell or set of bells
  10. chink – a high ringing sound when knocked together, or to make something do this
  11. clack -to make a short loud sound like one hard object hitting against another
  12. clang – a loud, metallic sound
  13. clank – a short, loud sound
  14. clash – a loud, metallic sound
  15. clatter – a series of short, sharp noises
  16. click – a short sound like the sound when you press a switch
  17. clink – to make the short high sound of glass or metal objects hitting each other, or to cause objects to make this sound
  18. cluck – to make a short, low sound with your tongue
  19. crash – a sudden loud noise, as if something is being hit
  20. creak – if something creaks, especially something wooden, it makes a high noise when it moves or when you put weight on it
  21. drone – to make a low continuous noise
  22. fizz – a soft sound that small gas bubbles make when they burst
  23. groan – a long, low, sound
  24. growl – a low, unpleasant noise
  25. grunt – to make a short low sound in your throat and nose at the same time
  26. gurgle – the low sound water makes when it is poured quickly from a bottle
  27. honk – to make a loud noise using a horn, especially the horn of a car
  28. hoot – to make a short loud sound as a warning
  29. mewl – crying with a soft, high sound
  30. moan – a long, low sound
  31. neigh – to make a high loud sound like a horse’s neigh
  32. peal – if a bell peals, or if someone peals it, it makes a loud sound
  33. peep – if a car’s horn peeps, it makes a sound
  34. ping – to make a short high sound like the sound of a small bell
  35. pipe – to make a very high sound, or to speak in a very high voice
  36. pop – a sudden noise like a small explosion
  37. putter – a short, quiet, low sound at a slow speed
  38. ring – to make a bell produce a sound
  39. roar – to make a continuous, very loud noise
  40. rumble – a continuous deep sound
  41. scream – to make a very loud high noise
  42. scream – to make a very loud high noise
  43. screech – to make a loud, high, and unpleasant noise
  44. scrunch – to make a loud noise like something being crushed
  45. sigh – a long, soft, low sound
  46. squeak – to make a short, high noise
  47. squeal – to make a long high sound
  48. squee – to make a loud high noise because you are excited or happy
  49. thrum- to make a low regular noise like one object gently hitting another many times
  50. thud – a dull sound when falling or hitting something
  51. thump – to hit against something with a low loud sound
  52. tinkle – to make a high, ringing sound
  53. wail – to make a long, high sound
  54. wheeze – a high sound, as though a lot of air is being pushed through it
  55. whine – a high, loud sound
  56. whirr – a fast, repeated, quiet sound
  57. whisper – to make a quiet, gentle sound
  58. whistle – to make a high sound by forcing air through your mouth in order to get someone’s attention
  59. yelp – a short, loud, high sound, usually caused by excitement, anger, or pain
  60. yowl – a long, loud, unhappy sound or complaint

Top Tip: Find out more about our Writing Courses. If you want to learn how to write, join us in Johannesburg or sign up for our online courses.

 by Amanda Patterson

© Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. 20 Words Used To Describe Specific Tastes And Flavours
  2. 209 Words To Describe Touch
  3. Three Simple Ways To Show And Not Tell
  4. 12 Crucial Things To Remember About Setting
  5. Cheat Sheets for Writing Body Language
  6. 20 Fun Ways To Find An Idea For A Plot

Sources:
https://www.macmillandictionary.com/thesaurus-category/british/miscellaneous-words-used-to-describe-sounds
https://www.macmillandictionary.com/thesaurus-category/british/describing-sounds-that-are-unpleasant-to-listen-to
https://www.macmillandictionary.com/thesaurus-category/british/describing-sounds-that-are-low-and-or-deep
https://www.macmillandictionary.com/thesaurus-category/british/describing-sounds-that-are-quiet-and-or-soft
https://www.macmillandictionary.com/thesaurus-category/british/describing-sounds-that-are-high-and-short
https://www.macmillandictionary.com/thesaurus-category/british/to-make-a-loud-sound
https://www.macmillandictionary.com/thesaurus-category/british/to-make-a-high-sound
https://www.macmillandictionary.com/thesaurus-category/british/to-make-a-quiet-or-low-sound

This article has 6 comments

  1. Anne

    Nice one, Amanda.
    I’m finding your website extraordinarily useful. I’m very new to the novel-writing scene, and for all my working life, the stuff I wrote was mainly serious business items – frightfully formal. Minutes of meetings, reports, training manuals – these were my bread-and-butter. Creative writing is proving to be much more fun, and I’m enjoying spreading my verbal wings.
    Many thanks for your help and guidance.

  2. Writers Write

    Thank you so much, Anne. Creative writing is much more fun. We’re so glad you’re finding the site to be useful.

  3. Rowena Love

    I found this really useful. Thank you. The first thing I’m going to do is show it to my daughter, too! We’ve been talking about her using her senses more in her writing and your list is so practical. I’m sure it will really help her writing. I’m looking forward to exploring your links to the other sensory words, as well.

    BTW – is there a typo in the heading ‘show and note tell’?

  4. Writers Write

    Thank you, Rowena. We really appreciate the feedback. And we fixed the typo.

  5. Sarah Richards

    This list will be quite useful for my poetry and Gothic Horror novel. If you don’t have one already, I’d love to see a list of touch, taste, and smell words.

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