pho·​nes·​theme fō-ˈnes-ˌthēm How to pronounce phonestheme (audio)
: the common feature of sound occurring in a group of symbolic words
He points to a 1929 experiment by Edward Sapir in which Sapir's subjects were asked to match nonsense words with small and large versions of the same object. The subjects tended to match words with a high vowel (such as ee) to the small object and those with a low vowel (such as the o in "cot") to the larger object. British linguist J.R. Firth later called these links between sound and meaning "phonesthemes."Michael Erard
phonesthemic adjective

Word History


blend of phoneme and esthetic

First Known Use

1930, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of phonestheme was in 1930

Dictionary Entries Near phonestheme

Cite this Entry

“Phonestheme.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Feb. 2023.

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