From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English syllable, sillable, syllabylle, sylabul, from Anglo-Norman sillable, from Old French sillebe, from Latin syllaba, from Ancient Greek συλλαβή (sullabḗ), from συλλαμβάνω (sullambánō, I gather together), from συν- (sun-, together) + λαμβάνω (lambánō, I take).


  • (Received Pronunciation, US) IPA(key): /ˈsɪl.ə.bəl/, [ˈsɪl.ə.bɫ̩]
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: sy‧lla‧ble


syllable (plural syllables)

  1. (linguistics) A unit of human speech which often forms words corresponding to one opening of the mouth; a vowel and its surrounding consonants.
    Meronyms: onset, nucleus, coda, rime
    • 2007, Don DeLillo, Underworld: A Novel, New York, N.Y.: Scribner Classics, →ISBN, page 543:
      I wanted to look up velleity and quotidian and memorize the fuckers for all time, spell them, learn them, pronounce them syllable by syllable—vocalize, phonate, utter the sounds, say the words for all they're worth.
  2. The written representation of a given pronounced syllable.
  3. A small part of a sentence or discourse; anything concise or short; a particle.
    • 1613 (date written), William Shakespeare, [John Fletcher], “The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act V, scene i]:
      Is the King's hand and tongue; and The Archbishop
      Is the King's hand and tongue; and who dare speak
      One syllable against him?
    • 1622, Richard Hooker, Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie, page 60:
      Then let them cast backe their eies unto former generations of men, and marke what was done in the prime of the World, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Sem, Abraham, Job, and the rest that lived before any syllable of the Law of God was written, did they not sinne as much as we doe in every action not commanded?
    • 1861, E. J. Guerin, Mountain Charley, page 22:
      In none of my travels did I ever meet him or learn a syllable of his whereabouts.

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



syllable (third-person singular simple present syllables, present participle syllabling, simple past and past participle syllabled)

  1. (transitive, poetic) To utter in syllables.
    • 1634 October 9 (first performance), [John Milton], edited by H[enry] Lawes, A Maske Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634: [], London: [] [Augustine Matthews] for Hvmphrey Robinson, [], published 1637, →OCLC; reprinted as Comus: [] (Dodd, Mead & Company’s Facsimile Reprints of Rare Books; Literature Series; no. I), New York, N.Y.: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1903, →OCLC:
      Begin to throng A thousand fantasies
      Begin to throng into my memory
      Of calling shapes, and beckning shadows dire,
      And airy tongues, that syllable mens names
      On Sands, and Shoars, and desert Wildernesses.
      read onlin


Further reading[edit]