Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A unit of spoken language consisting of a single uninterrupted sound formed by a vowel, diphthong, or syllabic consonant alone, or by any of these sounds preceded, followed, or surrounded by one or more consonants.
  • noun One or more letters or phonetic symbols written or printed to approximate a spoken syllable.
  • noun The slightest bit of spoken or written expression.
  • transitive verb To pronounce in syllables.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To divide into syllables.
  • To pronounce syllable by syllable; articulate; utter.
  • To speak.
  • noun The smallest separately articulated element in human utterance; a vowel, alone, or accompanied by one or more consonants, and separated by these or by a pause from a preceding or following vowel; one of the successive parts or joints into which articulated speech is divided, being either a whole word, composed of a single vowel (whether simple or compound) with accompanying consonants, or a part of a word containing such a vowel, separated from a preceding or following vowel either by a hiatus (that is, an instant of silence) or, much more usually, by an intervening consonant, or more than one.
  • noun In music, one of the arbitrary combinations of consonants and vowels used in solmization.
  • noun The least expression of language or thought; a particle.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb To pronounce the syllables of; to utter; to articulate.
  • noun An elementary sound, or a combination of elementary sounds, uttered together, or with a single effort or impulse of the voice, and constituting a word or a part of a word. In other terms, it is a vowel or a diphtong, either by itself or flanked by one or more consonants, the whole produced by a single impulse or utterance. One of the liquids, l, m, n, may fill the place of a vowel in a syllable. Adjoining syllables in a word or phrase need not to be marked off by a pause, but only by such an abatement and renewal, or reënforcement, of the stress as to give the feeling of separate impulses. See Guide to Pronunciation, §275.
  • noun In writing and printing, a part of a word, separated from the rest, and capable of being pronounced by a single impulse of the voice. It may or may not correspond to a syllable in the spoken language.
  • noun A small part of a sentence or discourse; anything concise or short; a particle.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun linguistics A unit of human speech that is interpreted by the listener as a single sound, although syllables usually consist of one or more vowel sounds, either alone or combined with the sound of one or more consonants; a word consists of one or more syllables.
  • noun The written representation of a given pronounced syllable.
  • verb transitive, poetic To utter in syllables.

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

  • noun a unit of spoken language larger than a phoneme

Etymologies

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

[Middle English sillable, from Anglo-Norman, alteration of Old French sillabe, from Latin syllaba, from Greek sullabē, from sullabein, second aorist of sullambanein, to combine in pronunciation : sun-, syn- + lambanein, to take.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Middle English and Middle French sillabe, from Latin syllaba, from Ancient Greek συλλαβή (sullabē), from συλλαμβάνω (sullambanō, "I gather together"), from συν- (sun-, "together") + λαμβάνω (lambanō, "I take").

Examples

  • Next, (in order to sustain his anti-_th_ theory,) he says, (Vol.III. p. 227,) that "the last syllable of 'murder,' then written _mur_th_er_, _seems to have been pronounced somewhat like the same syllable_ of the French _meurtre_."

    The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 03, No. 16, February, 1859

  • _terminating syllable, _ retains its distinct and intrinsic meaning, as much as when associated with a verb by juxtaposition: consequently, an "auxiliary verb" may form a part of a mood or tense, or passive verb, with as much propriety as a _terminating syllable_.

    English Grammar in Familiar Lectures

  • _radical pitch varies from syllable to syllable_, forming a diatonic melody.

    The Ontario Readers: The High School Reader, 1886

  • But – and we come to a divergence – this method of counting does, in French practice, often do away with the rhythm so delightful to an English ear; in Chinese, no such violence occurs, as each syllable is a word and no collection of such words can fall into a metric pulse as French words can, and, in their Chansons, are permitted to do.

    Fir-Flower Tablets: Poems Translated From the Chinese

  • In English, the stress on a syllable is a matter of WEIGHT ... you press on the stressed syllable, you put some weight on it – you push it down ... you hit it.

    l'accent tonique - French Word-A-Day

  • Naming a town "Haag" would just be odd, as it needs an article (compare a town named "Hedge" in English speaking countries) and the single syllable is metrically awkward as well.

    Place Names with Definite Articles

  • Which syllable is stressed is a major part of distinguishing these words when you hear them, as the actual endings added, “ic” and “er”, are themselves very short.

    French Word-A-Day:

  • Which syllable is stressed is a major part of distinguishing these words when you hear them, as the actual endings added, “ic” and “er”, are themselves very short.

    l'accent tonique - French Word-A-Day

  • Which syllable is stressed is a major part of distinguishing these words when you hear them, as the actual endings added, “ic” and “er”, are themselves very short.

    French Word-A-Day:

  • Naming a town "Haag" would just be odd, as it needs an article (compare a town named "Hedge" in English speaking countries) and the single syllable is metrically awkward as well.

    Place Names with Definite Articles » E-Mail

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