Definition of grapheme in English:



  • The smallest meaningful contrastive unit in a writing system.

    Compare with phoneme
    • ‘There were more deviations from the normal pattern in the pointed experiment, where dyslexies had to process both graphemes and diacritic signs than in the nonpointed experiment.’
    • ‘However, to be able to correctly map graphemes to phonemes, or phonemes to graphemes, children have to rely on well-specified phonological representations.’
    • ‘Then, beginning readers learn to parse the printed word into graphemes and subsequently assign phonemes to the different graphemes.’
    • ‘To reduce illiteracy and improve education in minority communities, the earliest efforts were concentrated on revising the existing writing systems to achieve a closer one-to-one correspondence between phonemes and graphemes.’
    • ‘Alternatively, the graphemes can be synthesized and mapped onto complete orthographic lexical representations.’
    letter, figure, symbol, sign, mark, type, cipher, device, hieroglyph, rune
    View synonyms


1930s: from graph + -eme.