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

  • n. A speech sound, such as (ē) or (ĭ), created by the relatively free passage of breath through the larynx and oral cavity, usually forming the most prominent and central sound of a syllable.
  • n. A letter, such as a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y in the English alphabet, that represents a vowel.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A sound produced by the vocal cords with relatively little restriction of the oral cavity, forming the prominent sound of a syllable.
  • n. A letter representing the sound of vowel; in English, the vowels are a, e, i, o and u, and sometimes y.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Of or pertaining to a vowel; vocal.
  • n. A vocal, or sometimes a whispered, sound modified by resonance in the oral passage, the peculiar resonance in each case giving to each several vowel its distinctive character or quality as a sound of speech; -- distinguished from a consonant in that the latter, whether made with or without vocality, derives its character in every case from some kind of obstructive action by the mouth organs. Also, a letter or character which represents such a sound. See Guide to Pronunciation, §§ 5, 146-149.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To pay (debts) by an “I O U.”
  • n. One of the openest, most resonant, and continuable sounds uttered by the voice in the process of speaking; a sound in which the element of tone, though modified and differentiated by positions of the mouth-organs, is predominant; a tone-sound, as distinguished from a fricative (in which a rustling between closely approximated organs is the predominant element), from a mute (in which the explosion of a closure is characteristic), and so on.
  • n. The letter or character which represents such a sound
  • Pertaining to a vowel; vocal
  • To provide or complete with vowels; insert vowels in (a word or syllable).
  • n. The vowel-points, except holem and shuruk, are written below the consonants. The holem is placed above the letter, and the dot of the shuruk within the letter vau to the left .

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

  • n. a letter of the alphabet standing for a spoken vowel
  • n. a speech sound made with the vocal tract open


Middle English vowelle, from Old French vouel, from Latin (littera) vōcālis, sounding (letter), from vōx, vōc-, voice.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old French vouel (French: voyelle), from Latin vōcālis ("voiced"). (Wiktionary)



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  • Then you'd be hyperventilating, which might put you in a comma if done to excess.

    November 3, 2008

  • No doubt at all.

    What if you laugh using excessive numbers of commas? "Oh, ha, ha, ha!"

    November 3, 2008

  • I have no doubt that mollusque laughs in all vowels simultaneously.

    November 3, 2008

  • It is a well known and easily demonstrated scientific fact that different people sound different vowels when laughing, from which fact a close observer has drawn the following conclusions:

    People who laugh in A (pronounced as ah) are frank, honest, and fond of noise and excitement, though they are often of a versatile and fickle disposition.

    Laughter in E (pronounced as ay) is peculiar to phlegmatic and melancholy persons.

    Those who laugh in I (pronounced as ee) are children or simple-minded, obliging, affectionate, timid, and undecided people.

    To laugh in O indicates generosity and daring.

    Avoid if possible all those who laugh in U, as they are wholly devoid of principle.

    Henry Williams, A Book of Curious Facts, 1903
    (by way of The Futility Closet)

    November 3, 2008

  • If you guys really want some fun, check out Bailey's Canting Dictionary (Thieving Slang), 1736. Learn about pimp-whiskins and zlouches, and find out why you'll want to avoid being frummagemm'd.

    November 11, 2007

  • Isn't if fun? Without it I would never have found vice admiral of the narrow seas.

    November 11, 2007

  • Skipvia, that is an *awesome* book!

    November 11, 2007

  • vowels are much like valves; they are referant emotional inflections that make the connections between the constants of consonants.

    November 11, 2007

  • Ha! I like that, skipvia. Will have to use it next time I owe money.

    Wait...I hate owing money. Never mind.

    November 11, 2007

  • Wye?

    November 11, 2007

  • Why?

    November 11, 2007

  • And if your gambling debt was to the writer George Russell, you could write on your slip: AE IOU.

    November 10, 2007

  • (v): to avoid paying a gambling debt by repeating the vowels I. O. U., as in "You can vowel me all night long but I'll still take my winnings." From The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

    Never thought of this as a verb.

    November 10, 2007