The smallest unit of SPEECH
that normally occurs in isolation, consisting of either a vowel alone (as in the pronunciation of ah
) or a combination of vowel and consonant(s) (as in the pronunciation of no
, and non
). Some consonants can be pronounced alone (mmm
), and may or may not be regarded as syllables, but they normally accompany vowels, which tend to occupy the central position in a syllable (the syllabic position
), as in pap
. Consonants occupy the margins of the syllable, as with p
in the examples just given. A vowel in the syllable margin is often referred to as a glide
, as in ebb
. Syllabic consonants
occur in the second syllables of words like middle
, replacing a sequence of schwa plus consonant; here, the time needed to pronounce the SCHWA
is transferred to the following consonant: for example, in the pronunciation /ˈmidḷ/ for middle
and /ˈmidṇ/ for midden
. As the examples show, a syllabic consonant is marked phonetically with a subscript vertical dash (ˌ). See L
A syllable standing alone is a monosyllable
, and may be a word in its own right, as with a
. A word containing many syllables is a polysyllable
or polysyllabic word
, such as selectivity
. A disyllable
or disyllabic word
has two syllables, a trisyllable
or trisyllabic word
has three. See BREVE
a unit of pronunciation having one vowel sound, with or without surrounding consonants, forming the whole or a part of a word; e.g., there are two syllables in water and three in inferno.
a character or characters representing a syllable.
the least amount of speech or writing; the least mention of something:
I'd never have breathed a syllable if he'd kept quiet.
pronounce (a word or phrase) clearly, syllable by syllable.
syl·la·bled adj. [usu. in comb.]
poems of few-syllabled lines.
XIV. — AN. sillable
, alt. of OF. sillabe
) — L. syllaba
— Gr. sullabḗ
, f. sullambánein
take, put, or bring together, f. SYL-
set or table of syllables. XVI. — n. sg. of late L. syllabārius
XVII. — medL. syllabicus
— Gr. sullabikós
XVII. — medL. syllabification
XIX. — medL. syllabize
divide into syllables. XVII. — medL. — Gr.