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[dif-thawng, -thong, dip-] /ˈdɪf θɔŋ, -θɒŋ, ˈdɪp-/
Phonetics. an unsegmentable, gliding speech sound varying continuously in phonetic quality but held to be a single sound or phoneme and identified by its apparent beginning and ending sound, as the oi- sound of toy or boil.
  1. a digraph, as the ea of meat.
  2. a ligature, as æ.
verb (used with object), verb (used without object)
late Middle English
1425-75; late Middle English diptonge < Late Latin diphthongus < Greek díphthongos literally, having two sounds (di- di-1 + phthóngos voice, sound)
Related forms
[dif-thawng-guh l, -thong-, dip-] /dɪfˈθɔŋ gəl, -ˈθɒŋ-, dɪp-/ (Show IPA),
diphthongic, diphthongous, adjective
nondiphthongal, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for diphthongs
  • Sounds of individual letters, digraphs, and diphthongs are blended to form syllables.
  • Demonstrate difference between pure vowels and diphthongs.
  • Pronounce long and short vowels, blends, and diphthongs.
  • Use knowledge of spelling patterns such as diphthongs, and special vowel spellings when reading.
  • Demonstrate the difference between pure vowels and diphthongs.
British Dictionary definitions for diphthongs


/ˈdɪfθɒŋ; ˈdɪp-/
a vowel sound, occupying a single syllable, during the articulation of which the tongue moves from one position to another, causing a continual change in vowel quality, as in the pronunciation of a in English late, during which the tongue moves from the position of (e) towards (ɪ)
a digraph or ligature representing a composite vowel such as this, as ae in Caesar
Derived Forms
diphthongal, adjective
Word Origin
C15: from Late Latin diphthongus, from Greek diphthongos, from di-1 + phthongos sound
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for diphthongs



late 15c., from Middle French diphthongue, from Late Latin diphthongus, from Greek diphthongos "having two sounds," from di- "double" (see di- (1)) + phthongos "sound, voice," related to phthengesthai "utter, speak loudly."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for diphthongs


in phonetics, a gliding vowel in the articulation of which there is a continuous transition from one position to another. Diphthongs are to be contrasted in this respect with so-called pure vowels-i.e., unchanging, or steady state, vowels. Though they are single speech sounds, diphthongs are usually represented, in a phonetic transcription of speech, by means of a pair of characters indicating the initial and final configurations of the vocal tract. Many of the vowel sounds in most dialects of English are diphthongs: e.g., the vowels of "out" and "ice," represented as [au] and [ai], respectively.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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