ap·​prox·​i·​mant | \ ə-ˈpräk-sə-mənt How to pronounce approximant (audio) \
plural approximants

Definition of approximant

1 phonetics : a speech sound that is formed by the passage of air between two articulators (such as the lips or tongue) which are close but not touching and that is usually classified as a consonant The initial consonant in raw is also an approximant, at least for those speakers of English who do not trill or flap the r.— John Clark et al., An Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology, 2007
2 mathematics : a mathematical method or function that is used to find an approximation While the expression n/log n is a fairly simple approximation for π(n), it is not terribly close, and mathematicians have been interested in improving it. Of course, one does this at the price of complicating the approximant.— Philip J. Davis, The Mathematical Experience, 1999

First Known Use of approximant

1860, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for approximant

approxim(ate) + -ant entry 1

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The first known use of approximant was in 1860

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Cite this Entry

“Approximant.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 2022.

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