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 Then, as the study inched forward, second by second, scan by scan, the lines became a kind of ritual, each syllable well-worn and tedious. Eric Boodman, STAT, "The vodka trial: In search of a treatment for vocal disorders, a researcher puts patient anecdotes to the test," 10 Feb. 2020 Standing in front of a row of cookie-cutter suburban houses that soon were engulfed in strobing lights and (fake) flames, Tyler tore into each syllable, screaming and rapping while the camera shook as if in imitation of an actual earthquake. Joe Lynch, Billboard, "The 5 Best Performances From the 2020 Grammys," 27 Jan. 2020 Back in the ’90s, E-40, Suga Free and Silkk the Shocker each found new ways to melt the clock, cramming their lines with lumps of molten syllables, reminding us how mouth-music can loosen our sense of temporality. Chris Richards, Washington Post, "The year’s best rappers sounded ahead of their time. Literally.," 13 Dec. 2019 All things being equal, one syllable chosen among English’s thousands will carry more information than one picked from Japanese’s dozens. The Economist, "Which is the best language?," 19 Sep. 2019 Some have contrasting tones while others do not; Japanese and Spanish have 25 phonemes (distinct units of sound) compared to 40 in English and Thai; and there are a few hundred distinct syllables in Japanese, versus almost 7,000 English. Olivia Goldhill, Quartz, "The language you speak changes how informative you can be," 8 Sep. 2019 Trump told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday morning, in a characteristically low-syllable riff. Adam Weinstein, The New Republic, "Surveillance States Are Flexing Their Muscle," 22 Jan. 2020 The five-minute piece, written by Jason Eckardt, consists of cries, truncated syllables and sharp sibilant sounds that appear to resemble someone angrily shushing herself. New York Times, "After Trauma, a Silenced Vocalist Sings Again," 21 Nov. 2019 The systems work by processing a person’s voice and breaking it down into components, like sounds or syllables, that can then be rearranged to form new phrases with similar speech patterns, pitch and tone. Drew Harwell, Washington Post, "An artificial-intelligence first: Voice-mimicking software reportedly used in a major theft," 5 Sep. 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

19 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Syllable.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Mar. 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

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