Definition of syllable in English:



  • 1A unit of pronunciation having one vowel sound, with or without surrounding consonants, forming the whole or a part of a word; for example, there are two syllables in water and three in inferno.

    • ‘He tried to focus on the sound, on the syllables and soft vibrations that were forming into words.’
    • ‘Lexa tried to repeat the name and fumbled over the made-up syllables and vowel sounds thrown in at random.’
    • ‘The passage is a rather dense one, with 46 syllables, for an relatively high average (for English) of 1.78 syllables / word.’
    • ‘There is no news story that cannot be reduced to a word of three syllables, and whole sentences bore us.’
    • ‘The vowels of the stressed syllables in such words as father and fodder are generally identical.’
    • ‘The Sumerians and Egyptians also used symbols to represent spoken sounds, such as syllables and words.’
    • ‘This was observed in practice when both teachers, especially Ms. Hernández, prompted students to sound out and decode words by phonemes when syllables could not be quickly identified.’
    • ‘Unlike Italian, stress is not required for monosyllabic and bisyllabic words; and unlike Spanish, stress is always assigned on the penultimate syllable of multisyllabic words.’
    • ‘His discussion of iambic pentameter (five stresses to a line, with the stress on the second syllable of each unit) is thorough and contains extensive examples.’
    • ‘For the stammerer there is a feeling of being out of control and an ensuing repetition of sounds, syllables, words or pauses.’
    • ‘After blending consonants and vowels, syllables are blended into words and words are used in meaningful sentences.’
    • ‘In some present-day music the individual syllables of words are used primarily for their sound quality and seem disconnected from the rest of the text.’
    • ‘Students in the low-level group were not reading words but were learning letter names and sounds, and how to blend consonant and vowel sounds to make syllables.’
    • ‘Of course, children learning to read any of the alphabetic languages tend to sound out letters and syllables until they recognise first whole words and then groups of words.’
    • ‘Articulation disorders include difficulties producing sounds in syllables or saying words incorrectly to the point that other people can't understand what's being said.’
    • ‘From a phonetic point of view, Casa is pronounced as the Spanish word ‘casa’, with the emphasis on the first syllable ‘ca’ and a soft and short sound for the second syllable.’
    • ‘The Elision subtest is a deletion task with the child required to restate a word with either syllables or single sounds omitted from the beginning, middle, or end of the word.’
    • ‘As children gain more experience with language and with manipulating sounds in words, they can identify the syllables, or the sound chunks, in words.’
    • ‘In America, it's commonly said with an ‘o’ sound in the second syllable.’
    • ‘This is recommended viewing, even for those of you whose eyes glaze over by the second syllable of the word ‘documentary.’’
    1. 1.1A character or characters representing a syllable.
      • ‘As its signs represent native syllables (such as sa and ke), TRANSLITERATION almost invariably produces phonetic change.’
      • ‘The system consisted mainly of symbols representing open syllables, i.e. consonant-vowel pairs.’
      • ‘The Su Tongpo poetry of the Kusoshi is printed in clear, blockish characters, while the waka verses appear in a mixture of cursive characters and kana syllables.’
      • ‘Buddhist temple coins here in Japan are inscribed with kana syllables, not kanji ideograms.’
    2. 1.2[usually with negative]The least amount of speech or writing; the least mention of something.
      ‘I'd never have breathed a syllable if he'd kept quiet’
      • ‘Word has reached my desk that this Talking Sport column is going down a treat in Germany, in Munich to be precise with one Roger Murphy scanning the web-site every week to devour every syllable falling from this table.’
      • ‘Perhaps it's just that the jurors are taking their mission very seriously and are reviewing every syllable of every bit of the testimony several times over.’
      • ‘As the Neanderthal, sex-driven doc, he blazes brilliantly across every frame of the screen, evidently relishing every loaded syllable of Marber's screenplay.’
      • ‘Fully deserving of every syllable of praise it has received, this album should gain a very healthy cult following. - Mike Hogan’
      • ‘All in all, she's no David Attenborough (who speaks at the perfect speed, whether you're taking notes or just absorbing every syllable of his beautifully written scripts).’
      • ‘And yet not one syllable has been offered as to what we are going to do to prevent this from happening again.’
      • ‘To get inside Donelly's third solo album, you must surrender, slow down and examine every note and syllable.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, the Crown is held to account for every syllable uttered, all the while keeping an eye on the allocated budget, which tends to result in asinine decisions to only take to trial cases which are absolute slam dunks.’
      • ‘They conveniently turned the other cheek, when it was no season for weakness, and uttered no syllable under the UNIP government.’
      • ‘And afterwards Gordon Brown came out and gave a little speech - in which he said not one syllable about the campaign.’
      • ‘The storytellers seem to cut loose, the organisers are relaxed and the audience wants to be sure it hears every syllable before the festival ends for another year.’
      • ‘All of those can be rationalized or ignored by people who are now going over every syllable Cindy Sheehan utters.’
      • ‘They tell me that in spite of what happened, every syllable of my message came through.’
      • ‘It's a poem that's been subjected to much critical appraisal, analysed and pulled apart, and examined minutely to the very last syllable.’
      • ‘A skilled Dakota farmer (like a Murphy poem) therefore wastes no syllable, no bit of dirt.’
      • ‘It is a tribute to the fierce talent of Diamond, and the skilful compiling of Dominic Lawson, that in every other syllable of this book the man feels most incredibly alive.’
      • ‘But just to witness the shocked disbelief on their anal retentive little faces when I do it will be worth every syllable.’


  • Pronounce (a word or phrase) clearly, syllable by syllable.


  • in words of one syllable

    • Using very simple language; expressed plainly.

      • ‘But my experience is that they've got to be in words of one syllable and fit on one side of A4, preferably on one side of A5.’
      • ‘And if there is anyone out there who can help would you explain it to me in words of one syllable?’
      • ‘But we have frequently been spoken to by experts in words of one syllable.’
      • ‘I'm not sure how to say it in words of one syllable that you can understand.’
      • ‘Assistants need to have everything explained to them slowly in words of one syllable, which helps all of us watching at home work to follow the more twisted technical details of the plot.’
      • ‘Surely there should be a book somewhere explaining all this stuff in words of one syllable for otherwise intelligent adults like me.’
      • ‘We advised you in words of one syllable, and on a number of occasions throughout the meeting that although we wished to increase our activities on behalf of Npower we were unable to do so because of your actions in June and July of 2003.’
      • ‘Next week I will address you for the last time, and will explain clearly in words of one syllable who all the people are you should spend your time hating.’
      • ‘And if you even begin to understand how the calculation is done, please explain it to me in words of one syllable.’
      • ‘He wanted me to reduce deep and complex ideas and issues to sound bites, to explain the meaning of life in words of one syllable.’
      understandable, comprehensible, intelligible, easy to understand, plain, direct, uncomplicated, explicit, lucid, perspicuous, coherent, logical, distinct, simple, straightforward, clearly expressed, unambiguous, clear-cut, crystal clear, accessible, user-friendly
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Late Middle English: from an Anglo-Norman French alteration of Old French sillabe, via Latin from Greek sullabē, from sun- together + lambanein take.