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PHONAESTHESIA BrE, phonesthesia AmE, also phonetic symbolism, sound symbolism. Vocal sound that suggests meaning, as in onomatopoeic or echoic words like cock-a-doodle-doo, cuckoo. The term is often used to refer to the occurrence of the same consonant cluster in a series of words with similar meanings: sl- in sleaze, slide, slime, slip, slope, sludge, slump, slurp, slurry, suggesting downward movement and a rushing, sucking sound; -sh in bash, dash, crash, flash, gush, hush, rush, splash, whoosh, suggesting swift or strong movement. These clusters are sometimes referred to as phon(a)esthemes, two of which may occur in one word: sl and sh in slash, slosh, slush. Such phonetic and aesthetic elements, often used to effect in verse and rhetoric, are semantically imprecise, and do not necessarily apply to all the words of a certain type: sleep and sleeve, dish and sash do not normally have the same nuances as slime and splash. Compare ALLITERATION, ASSONANCE, ECHOISM, ONOMATOPOEIA, ROOT-CREATION.

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