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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘However, to be able to correctly map graphemes to phonemes, or phonemes to graphemes, children have to rely on well-specified phonological representations.’
    • ‘Alternatively, the graphemes can be synthesized and mapped onto complete orthographic lexical representations.’
    • ‘Then, beginning readers learn to parse the printed word into graphemes and subsequently assign phonemes to the different graphemes.’
    letter, figure, symbol, sign, mark, type, cipher, device, hieroglyph, rune
    View synonyms


1930s: from graph + -eme.