Definition of vowel in English:



  • 1A speech sound which is produced by comparatively open configuration of the vocal tract, with vibration of the vocal cords but without audible friction, and which is a unit of the sound system of a language that forms the nucleus of a syllable.

    Contrasted with consonant
    • ‘I love the garrulous, argumentative people, with their speech, which boasts impressively rounded vowels.’
    • ‘When his operas are sung in any other language, the shift in vowels, consonants, and rhythms changes the character of the music.’
    • ‘The double consonant signifies that the preceding vowel remains short.’
    • ‘Vowels so marked are described as long, and unmarked vowels are short, a distinction known as vowel length.’
    • ‘The language recodes the vowels and consonants of individual Spanish words into whistles.’
    • ‘In Miami-Illinois, as in other Algonquian languages, vowel length is phonemic, that is, it is an absolute determining factor in the shape and meaning of words.’
    • ‘What specialists like Liberman are schooled in, is the rules for sound-shifts in vowels and consonants in any language across the centuries.’
    • ‘After blending consonants and vowels, syllables are blended into words and words are used in meaningful sentences.’
    • ‘Even the name seems pregnant with significance - that defiant strangeness, those open, dreamy vowels.’
    • ‘His voice is also surprisingly cultured, far more so in many ways than Jagger's flattened vowels.’
    • ‘The accumulated differences in the vowels, consonants, and syllable lengths gives dramatic speech a totally different pace.’
    • ‘Stressed syllables retain full vowel quality, whereas unstressed syllables may have weak vowels.’
    • ‘If I understand the transliteration right, the vowel quality would also be closer to American English cat than cot.’
    • ‘I have never, for instance, heard a speaker of English condemn the nasal vowels or the dropped consonants of the French language.’
    • ‘Lavender was 75 years old, and produced vowel sounds that have disappeared everywhere else.’
    • ‘In Swahili, which is a Bantu language, vowels are pronounced as they are in Spanish or Italian.’
    • ‘Expiration of air through vibrating vocal cords, used in the production of vowels and voiced consonants.’
    • ‘In Chinese pronunciation, basic vowels can form vowel combinations with each other or with a nasal consonant.’
    • ‘In Guaraní, 12 vowels are distinguished, six oral vowels and six nasal vowels.’
    • ‘Vitruvius's remarks show a sophisticated interest in the different acoustic behaviours of consonants and vowels.’
    1. 1.1 A letter representing a vowel sound, such as a, e, i, o, u.
      • ‘It was only later that these ambiguities were in large measure resolved by the creation of a system of pointing the consonantal text to represent the missing vowels.’
      • ‘The Amharic alphabet is made up of 33 letters and has seven vowels.’
      • ‘Allowing for the omission of vowels and the unknown letter, surely this was Rameses.’
      • ‘While the consonant cards each represent a single letter, the vowel cards give a choice of two vowels and the wild cards represent any letter.’
      • ‘German can also put vowel letter plus h as in ' autobahn '.’
      • ‘They are written with n following the vowel letter: in en an un onün.’
      • ‘Each syllable is written as a combination of consonants and vowels, plus the tone mark.’
      • ‘Write this sentence down, then remove all vowels and repeating letters.’
      • ‘The Lao alphabet also has 38 vowel symbols, representing 24 vowel sounds.’
      • ‘He had written but one word, three consonants and a single vowel.’
      • ‘Keep monthly writing samples so you can observe how students gradually add the correct vowels and consonants.’
      • ‘Umlauts are the pair of dots used in some European languages to modify the sounds of certain vowels; they are placed above the vowel.’
      • ‘Knowing that the first letter is a vowel keeps solvers from pursuing a solution word beginning with a consonant.’
      • ‘The vowel letter e can represent a variety of sounds.’
      • ‘He has also learned the Greek alphabet, capital and lowercase, and has begun to make the distinction between consonants and vowels.’
      • ‘I erased the vowels and double letters in order.’
      • ‘The two men may share a vowel at the end of their last name.’
      • ‘The first complete alphabet, comprising symbols representing all the vowels and consonants of a language, was devised by the ancient Greeks.’
      • ‘The schwa sound represents a unique yet important construct for the developing reader in that it cannot easily be sounded out and is not represented by any one single vowel letter.’
      • ‘In contrast, vowel letters are never omitted from words in text.’


Middle English: from Old French vouel, from Latin vocalis (littera) ‘vocal (letter)’.