approximant

noun ap·prox·i·mant \ ə-ˈpräk-sə-mənt \

Definition of approximant

plural approximants
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 Phonology2007
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. DavisThe Mathematical Experience1999

There's more!

Love words? You must — there are over 200,000 words in our free online dictionary, but you are looking for one that’s only in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.

Start your free trial today and get unlimited access to America's largest dictionary, with:

  • More than 250,000 words that aren't in our free dictionary
  • Expanded definitions, etymologies, and usage notes
  • Advanced search features
  • Ad free!
Already a subscriber? Log in.

Origin and Etymology of approximant

approxim(ate) +1-ant


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up approximant? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

food, provisions, or a tasty dish

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Find the Cousins

  • a-large-tree-with-many-branches
  • Which pair shares a common word ancestor?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!