Definition of schwa in English:

schwa

noun

Phonetics
  • The unstressed central vowel (as in a moment ago), represented by the symbol /ə/ in the International Phonetic Alphabet.

    • ‘Although not represented in the conventional alphabet, schwa is the commonest vowel sound in English.’
    • ‘In another example, we observed that only 28% of the teachers could correctly identify the sound of a schwa, as represented in the final syllable of the word ‘happen.’’
    • ‘The ‘o’ is pronounced like the ‘uh’ that grammarians everywhere know as the ‘English schwa.’’
    • ‘Leaving Rome and heading south or east, you find a tendency of shortening non-stressed vowels and reducing them to schwas.’
    • ‘Of these, 36 have a clear schwa as their vowel.’

Origin

Late 19th century: from German, from Hebrew šěwā'.

Pronunciation

schwa

/ʃwɑː/