syl·​la·​ble | \ ˈsi-lə-bəl How to pronounce syllable (audio) \

Definition of syllable

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a unit of spoken language that is next bigger than a speech sound and consists of one or more vowel sounds alone or of a syllabic consonant alone or of either with one or more consonant sounds preceding or following
2 : one or more letters (such as syl, la, and ble) in a word (such as syl*la*ble) usually set off from the rest of the word by a centered dot or a hyphen and roughly corresponding to the syllables of spoken language and treated as helps to pronunciation or as guides to placing hyphens at the end of a line
3 : the smallest conceivable expression or unit of something : jot


syllabled; syllabling\ ˈsi-​lə-​b(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce syllabling (audio) \

Definition of syllable (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to give a number or arrangement of syllables to (a word or verse)
2 : to express or utter in or as if in syllables

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Synonyms for syllable

Synonyms: Noun

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Examples of syllable in a Sentence

Noun The word “doctor” has two syllables. “Doctor” is a two-syllable word. The first syllable of the word “doctor” is given stress.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Tonal languages, such as Mandarin Chinese and Cherokee, rely on variations in pitch to differentiate meaning: the same syllable spoken at a higher pitch can specify a different word if spoken at a lower pitch or in a rising or falling tone. Sarah Lewin Frasier, Scientific American, "Wet Is Better for Tonal Languages," 1 Apr. 2015 Languages convey roughly the same amount of information per period of time, but some (like Mandarin or English) do so with a small number of complex syllables, and others (like Japanese) do so with a rapid flow of simpler ones. The Economist, "Dubbing is coming to a small screen near you," 21 Dec. 2019 Crow said, the last syllable of his remarks drowned out by loud cheers from the friendly crowd, which gave him a 20-second-long standing ovation. Justin Wingerter, The Denver Post, "Rep. Jason Crow says he’ll vote to impeach Trump this week," 15 Dec. 2019 Canada’s two largest newspapers, the Globe and the Star, published board-wide editorials denying those three syllables, while the Post had a Catholic priest doing the same. Soraya Roberts, Longreads, "The Great White Nope," 13 Dec. 2019 Spoken languages all use contrasts in both vowels and consonants, organized into syllables with vowels at the core. Louis-jean Boë, The Conversation, "Examining how primates make vowel sounds pushes timeline for speech evolution back by 27 million years," 11 Dec. 2019 Soulful singing has a way of wringing emotion out of notes and words, and one of the most impressive and effective ways of doing that is to squeeze extra notes into a single syllable, to turn a basic utterance into a rainbow of expression. John Adamian,, "Mariah Carey bringing holiday cheer to Mohegan," 6 Dec. 2019 In recent years, Webby has taken an interest in hot yoga, which doesn’t seem to have quieted his mind down terribly or dulled his dexterity with jamming syllables together. John Adamian,, "CT rapper Chris Webby playing annual Black Friday show at Toad’s Place," 22 Nov. 2019 Kyé7e taught me to wrap untrained cheek, tongue, and throat muscles around vowel-less syllables. Julian Brave Noisecat, The New Yorker, "Can Film Save Indigenous Languages?," 14 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'syllable.' 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 syllable


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for syllable


Middle English, from Anglo-French sillabe, silable, from Latin syllaba, from Greek syllabē, from syllambanein to gather together, from syn- + lambanein to take — more at latch

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Time Traveler for syllable

Time Traveler

The first known use of syllable was in the 14th century

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Statistics for syllable

Last Updated

23 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Syllable.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 24 January 2020.

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More Definitions for syllable


How to pronounce syllable (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of syllable

: any one of the parts into which a word is naturally divided when it is pronounced


syl·​la·​ble | \ ˈsi-lə-bəl How to pronounce syllable (audio) \

Kids Definition of syllable

1 : a unit of spoken language that consists of one or more vowel sounds alone or with one or more consonant sounds coming before or following
2 : one or more letters (as syl, la, and ble) in a written word (as syl*la*ble) usually separated from the rest of the word by a centered dot or a hyphen and used as guides to the division of the word at the end of a line

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Comments on syllable

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


a feeling of well-being or elation

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