from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A sound that, because it appears in a number of words of similar meaning, has a recognizable semantic association.


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • Householder credits J.R. Firth with the term phonestheme, which a number of us who developed the theme in the '40s and' 50s adopted; one could generalize the discipline as phonesthematics, I suppose.

    VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly Vol XIII No 3

  • The word phonestheme is, of course, a blending of phoneme and esthetic, indicating quite elegantly the tendency of certain sounds to acquire esthetic or emotional connotations.

    VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly Vol XIII No 3

  • About 30 such word constellations in a corpus of 350+ Siwu ideophones (with on average 2 members) 71 out of 353 ideophones (about 20%) partake in this kind of phonestheme networks

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  • Webster's Third defines phonestheme as "the common feature of sound occurring in a group of symbolic words."

    VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly Vol XIII No 3


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  • Ooh, thanks, bilby, for discovering this word! I've just created a slew of phonestheme lists, and now I know what to call them!

    January 30, 2011

  • But why not fonestheme?

    August 7, 2008

  • No probs. I've had a phonestheme list in mind for a while and found this site about 6 months ago when I was digging around. He has some good lists of phonesethemes sorted by initial or final consonant cluster. Just leave me *peuk and you can have the rest!

    The interesting side about phonesthetics is that it brings together the 'intuition' that is behind what words mean.

    August 7, 2008

  • Bilby! This is a type of document I've been wanting to read for the last 2 years but had no name for. Thank you!

    August 7, 2008

  • "A phonestheme is a sound, sound cluster, or sound type that is directly associated with a meaning. The initial cluster /gl/ (light, shining) is often cited as an example of an English phonestheme. It occurs, to a greater or lesser extent, in the following words: glass, gleam, gleed (live coal), glisten, glow, glare, glent (glean, shine), glimmer, glimpse, glister, glitter, glim (shine, gleam), gloat, gloom, gloss, glaze from gaze, glare, glance, glint ablaut variant of glent, glower blend of glow, glare, glance, lower, glum (look sullen) probable ablaut variation of gloom, glade (a open passage through a wood; a grassy open or cleared space in a forest), moonglade (moonlight on water). The shared cultural response to a phonestheme is called phonesthesia, and the study of phonesthemes and phonesthesia is called phonesthetics."

    - Benjamin K. Shisler, 'The Influence of Phonesthesia on the English Language', 1997.

    Full text here.

    August 7, 2008