Definitions

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

  • n. The smallest phonetic unit in a language that is capable of conveying a distinction in meaning, as the m of mat and the b of bat in English.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An indivisible unit of sound in a given language. A phoneme is an abstraction of the physical speech sounds (phones) and may encompass several different phones.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Same as phone, n.
  • n. A voice-sound imagined by the insane; a hallucination of voices.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. (linguistics) one of a small set of speech sounds that are distinguished by the speakers of a particular language

Etymologies

French phonème, from Greek phōnēma, phōnēmat-, utterance, sound produced, from phōnein, to produce a sound, from phōnē, sound, voice; see bhā-2 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Ancient Greek φώνημα (phōnēma, "sound"), from φωνέω (phōneō, "to sound"), from φωνή (phōnē, "sound"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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