Definition of syllabic in US English:



  • 1Relating to or based on syllables.

    ‘a system of syllabic symbols’
    • ‘A clear-cut distinction cannot always be made between alphabets proper and syllabaries, sets of syllabic symbols as in the Japanese kana systems.’
    • ‘Went to a lecture on Linear B; the lecturer was Italian and impressed upon all twelve students how difficult a syllabic script (such as Linear B) is.’
    • ‘Thanks to his familiarity with syllabic scripts (among others) he succeeded in identifying a number of consonant-vowel pairs that spelt out words which seemed convincing in their context.’
    • ‘With the support of the Igloolik Research Centre, the names were transcribed into the syllabic orthography, and a parallel database using syllables was created.’
    • ‘The margins are long (moving to the very end of the page) or short (even one word) based upon the content of the phrase rather than some predetermined syllabic length.’
    • ‘But such enlightened suggestions are always smothered by the conservatism of Canada's eastern Arctic communities, where attachment to the syllabic system is deep.’
    • ‘This approach is taken to avoid the loss of syllabic content through euphonic combination.’
    • ‘As a young woman in Kangiqsujuaq, then known as Wakeham Bay, Mitiarjuk taught missionaries Inuttitut and, in return, she learned how to write syllabic script.’
    • ‘To simplify a rather complex topic, for example, we can say that Spanish is a syllabic language in which the spoken language is driven by a small group of distinct syllables so that the written language is decoded easily by syllables.’
    • ‘The syllabic structure of Chinese requires memorization of at least three thousand characters to be literate.’
    1. 1.1Prosody Based on the number of syllables in a line.
      ‘the recreation of classical syllabic meters’
      • ‘For instance, in Ginsberg's Journals for the mid-fifties, his concern to develop long syllabic lines, using the prosaic and the discursive approaches, clearly leads to the incantatory effects of his most celebrated poetry.’
      • ‘While there is no syllabic verse in existence that may be dated earlier than AD 650, such metres dominated for the next millennium.’
      • ‘Poets turned to the syllabic meters of folk poetry, and the old Osmanli literary style gave way to the more direct language characteristic of most Western poetry.’
      • ‘The argument in favor of hexameter is thus analogous to Coleridge's endeavor to free himself from syllabic prosody in Christabel.’
      • ‘While the stress count in each hemistich ranges from one to three (with the exception of the line in bold-face) there is no dominant foot or syllabic pattern.’
    2. 1.2 (of a consonant, especially a nasal or other continuant) constituting a whole syllable, such as the m in Mbabane or the l in bottle.
      • ‘The t of words like eaten is usually glottalized and is followed by a syllabic n.’
      • ‘As the examples show, a syllabic consonant is marked phonetically with a subscript vertical dash See L, M, N, R.’
      • ‘The problem of spelling syllabic r (or final schwa) is compounded by numerous pairs of homophones.’
      • ‘The schwa may be present or absent, and, if absent, may alternate with a syllabic l or r.’
      • ‘In the weak syllables of the language, the vowel is reduced in speech to a central weak quality (schwa) or is represented by a syllabic consonant.’
    3. 1.3 Articulated in syllables.
      ‘syllabic singing’
      • ‘In syllabic singing, each tone carries one syllable.’
      • ‘Settings are for three or four voices, mainly syllabic and homophonic, with the melody in the top voice.’
      • ‘Aboriginal songs include many kinds of vocalizations ranging from growling, grunting, and shrieking to bitonal syllabic chanting.’
      • ‘For all the score's mad energy, the dramatic shapes are never in doubt, the climaxes are effective and the syllabic patter even starts to sound like real conversation, comic yet frantic.’


  • A written character that represents a syllable.

    ‘Inuit syllabics’
    • ‘The Cree syllabics on the glacial till granite boulder base say: ‘I am the big bear.’’
    • ‘Their first formal assignment was to write a poem in syllabics, that is, one in which the syllables in each line were counted.’
    • ‘Her novel, Sanaaq, Canada's first work of fiction in syllabics, was started during the early 1950s.’
    • ‘We had to write a letter to a grandparent or great-grandparent, in syllabics (each line has the same number of syllables).’
    • ‘Some Inuit leaders, such as John Amagoalik and Jose Kusugak, have long advocated a common writing system, and even a move from syllabics to Roman orthography.’
    • ‘Schiff's forms depend (like Marianne Moore's) on interlocking enjambments, on syllabics, and on baroque grammar, or else (unlike Moore's) on dense repetitions derived from Provençal forms.’


Early 18th century: from French syllabique or late Latin syllabicus, from Greek sullabikos, from sullabē ‘syllable’.