pho·​net·​ic | \ fə-ˈne-tik How to pronounce phonetic (audio) \

Definition of phonetic

1 : representing the sounds and other phenomena of speech: such as
a : constituting an alteration of ordinary spelling that better represents the spoken language, that employs only characters of the regular alphabet, and that is used in a context of conventional spelling
b : representing speech sounds by means of symbols that have one value only
c : employing for speech sounds more than the minimum number of symbols necessary to represent the significant differences in a speaker's speech
2a : of or relating to spoken language or speech sounds
b : of or relating to the science of phonetics

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Did You Know?

The English alphabet is phonetic—that is, the letters represent sounds. The Chinese alphabet, however, isn't phonetic, since its symbols represent ideas rather than sounds. But even in English, a letter doesn't always represent the same sound; the "a" in cat, father, and mate, for example, represents three different sounds. Because of this, books about words often use specially created phonetic alphabets in which each symbol stands for a single sound in order to represent pronunciations.

Examples of phonetic in a Sentence

the phonetic units of a language This dictionary uses the International Phonetic Alphabet. Spanish is a more phonetic language than English.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Dunkin', formerly known as Dunkin' Donuts, was one of the popularizers of the phonetic spelling of the word and helped to popularize it, according to the article. Morgan Hines, USA TODAY, "Celebrate National Donut Day! Or is it doughnut?," 7 June 2019 As in all good origin stories, the makeshift setup of Batchelor’s teen years was unknowingly an early prototype for his new Union Square salon, the COH, a phonetic acronym for the Culture of Hair. Leilani Marie Labong,, "At the Culture of Hair salon, the mission is top of mind — and head," 5 July 2018 Before the graduates had filed into the arena, they were given the card on which Schoon had made his phonetic notes. Erika Rose, Post-Tribune, "Pomp and circumstance … with precise pronunciation," 2 May 2018 Those newcomers no doubt wrestled with Spanish words and did their best phonetic pronunciations, which became the norm, perhaps with a boost from music, movies and popular culture. Steve Lopez,, "Spanish names, cultural shifts and a lot of L.A. linguist confusion. El Se-gun-dough or El Say-goon-dough?," 28 Apr. 2018 Edwards spent weeks consulting with Swahili-proficient colleagues and putting Pepper through many trials with phonetic spelling. Kate Keller, Smithsonian, "The Smithsonian Is Using a Swahili-Speaking Robot to Break Down Language Barriers," 27 Apr. 2018 In 2000, according to Business Insider, Pyongchang became Pyeonchang when South Korea changed the phonetic translation of certain words. Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, "Olympic notebook: Pyeongchang vs. PyeongChang, more gold for Kurka, and some salty language," 12 Feb. 2018 Ross The look: The Quebecois accent can sound a little rough to some (read: the French), hence the name of this wine: Chardonneret—the phonetic spelling of the Quebecois pronunciation. Emily Eisen, Bon Appetit, "11 Natural Wines That Taste as Good as They Look," 26 Mar. 2018 Linguists, who had recommended that the new writing system follow the example of Turkish, which uses umlauts and other phonetic markers instead of apostrophes, protested that the president’s approach would be ugly and imprecise. Andrew Higgins, New York Times, "Kazakhstan Cheers New Alphabet, Except for All Those Apostrophes," 15 Jan. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'phonetic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of phonetic

1802, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for phonetic

New Latin phoneticus, from Greek phōnētikos, from phōnein to sound with the voice, from phōnē voice

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Statistics for phonetic

Last Updated

20 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for phonetic

The first known use of phonetic was in 1802

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More Definitions for phonetic



English Language Learners Definition of phonetic

: of or relating to spoken language, speech sounds, or the science of phonetics
: representing each speech sound with a single symbol
: using a system of written symbols that represent speech sounds in a way that is very close to how they actually sound


pho·​net·​ic | \ fə-ˈne-tik How to pronounce phonetic (audio) \

Kids Definition of phonetic

: of or relating to spoken language or speech sounds


pho·​net·​ic | \ fə-ˈnet-ik How to pronounce phonetic (audio) \

Medical Definition of phonetic

1a : of or relating to spoken language or speech sounds
b : of or relating to the science of phonetics
2 : representing the sounds and other phenomena of speech

Other Words from phonetic

phonetically \ -​i-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce phonetically (audio) \ adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on phonetic

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with phonetic

Spanish Central: Translation of phonetic

Nglish: Translation of phonetic for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of phonetic for Arabic Speakers

Comments on phonetic

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


to take the place or position of

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