from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A speech sound, such as a glide or liquid, produced by narrowing but not blocking the vocal tract, as by placing an articulator, such as the tongue, near another part of the vocal tract.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a consonant sound made by slightly narrowing the vocal tract, while still allowing a smooth flow of air. Liquids and glides are approximants.
  • n. An approximation to the solution of a function, series, etc.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Approaching in character; approximating.


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • Remember the sonority hierarchy: fricative approximant vowel.

    Concern trolls and the Etruscan bilabial 'f'

  • Depending on the variety of Spanish, this can be a lateral, an approximant, a fricative or an affricate or even a plosive.

    Spanish spelling | Linguism

  • I would expect a French or German speaker to use a uvular R at the beginning of the family name, a dental L, N and D, and a clear L in the first name, where English speakers would have an approximant R, alveolar L, N, and D, and a dark L.

    Urdu in English | Linguism

  • In my sole view, if the letter phi is already being used to write a bilabial fricative (which sounds like "f"), then it's conceivable to me that initial /w-/ in Etruscan (written as "v") could have evolved into a bilabial approximant or voiced fricative in Rhaetic and subsequently also be represented by the same letter for its voiceless "f"-like counterpart.

    Rhaetic inscriptions Schum PU 1 and Schum CE 1

  • The only problem with this theory, that I have, is that I'm quite sure that h2 was in fact a voiced pharyngeal approximant, looking at how the ayin influences vowels in Arabic, I find this a plausible theory.

    "Mid Indo-European", Semitic and Neolithic numerals

  • In this version, Professor Henry Higgins teaches Eliza Doolittle how to pronounce /r/ ‘properly', i.e. as the Hebrew alveolar trill [r] (characteristic of Sephardic Jews, who happen to have been socially disadvantaged) rather than as the Israeli unique lax uvular approximant [®′] (characteristic of Ashkenazic Jews, who have usually controlled key positions in society). HEBREW OR ISRAELI?

  • I just wrote a paragraph in my term paper, regarding "interesting" observations concerning the interchangeable usage of the voiced alveolar trill and the voiced retroflex approximant in Yapese.


  • Some settle for the uvular trill or uvular fricative of French and German (which is made further back in the vocal tract) or, if they are native speakers of English, the (post -) alveolar approximant (which has the same point of articulation as the Spanish r but is not a trill).

    Irish Blogs

  • Among the leading quantum-mechanical signal processing methods, this book emphasizes the role of Pade approximant and the Lanczos algorithm, highlighting the major benefits of their combination.

    AvaxHome RSS:

  • By compressing a crystalline approximant of the quasicrystal, the highest packing fraction we obtain is

    Naturejobs - All Jobs


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  • Thanks qroqqa for filling out the definition. All day I've been muttering approximants and semivowels to try and detect any hint of frication in my pronunciation of them (nothing else to do on New Year's Eve while at work...).

    January 1, 2009

  • More specifically: a consonant that is formed by the approach of the tongue to the fixed parts of the mouth, causing colouration of the air stream but not so much as to cause friction.

    January 1, 2009

  • (n): a speech sound that is intermediate between a vowel and a regular consonant.

    "l" is a lateral approximant in, for instance, the word largesse. "w" is an approximant in the word widdershins, and "y" an approximant in yaffingale.

    January 1, 2009