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

  • adj. Of or relating to phonetics.
  • adj. Representing the sounds of speech with a set of distinct symbols, each designating a single sound: phonetic spelling.
  • adj. Of, relating to, or being features of pronunciation that are not phonemically distinctive in a language, as aspiration of consonants or vowel length in English.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Relating to the sounds of spoken language.
  • adj. Relating to phones (as opposed to phonemes)
  • n. In such logographic writing systems as the Chinese writing system, the portion of a character (if any) that provides an indication of its pronunciation; contrasted with radical.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Of or pertaining to the voice, or its use.
  • adj. Representing sounds; ; -- opposed to ideographic.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Relating or pertaining to the human voice as used in speech; concerning articulate sounds, their mode of production, relations, combinations, and changes: as, phonetic science; phonetic decay.
  • Representing articulate sounds or utterance: as, a phonetic mode of writing (in contradistinction to an ideographic or pictorial mode); a phonetic mode of spelling (in contradistinction to a traditional, historical, or so-called etymological mode, such as the current spelling of English, in which letters representing or supposed to represent former and obsolete utterance are retained or inserted according to chances of time, caprice, or imperfect knowledge).
  • In entomology, as used by Kirby, noting the collar or prothorax of a hymenopterous insect when it embraces the mesothorax and the posterior angles cover the mesothoracic or so-called vocal spiracles.

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

  • adj. of or relating to the scientific study of speech sounds
  • adj. of or relating to speech sounds


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

New Latin phōnēticus, representing speech sounds, from Greek phōnētikos, vocal, from phōnētos, to be spoken, from phōnein, to produce a sound, from phōnē, sound, voice; see bhā-2 in Indo-European roots.



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  • JM often wonders why phonetic isn’t spelled the way it sounds?

    August 13, 2011

  • Why aren't the words phoneticized?

    January 22, 2008

  • A decidedly heterological word.

    January 5, 2007