(in English articulation) a speech sound produced without occluding, diverting, or obstructing the flow of air from the lungs (opposed to consonant ).
(in a syllable) the sound of greatest sonority, as i in grill. Compare consonant ( def 1b ).
(in linguistic function) a concept empirically determined as a phonological element in structural contrast with consonant, as the (ē) of be (bē), we (wē), and yeast (yēst).
a letter representing or usually representing a vowel, as, in English, a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes w and y.
of or pertaining to a vowel.

1275–1325; Middle English < Old French vowel < Latin vōcālis vocal

vowelless, adjective
vowellike, adjective
vowely, vowelly, adverb
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
vowel (ˈvaʊəl)
1.  phonetics a voiced speech sound whose articulation is characterized by the absence of friction-causing obstruction in the vocal tract, allowing the breath stream free passage. The timbre of a vowel is chiefly determined by the position of the tongue and the lips
2.  a letter or character representing a vowel
[C14: from Old French vouel, from Latin vocālis littera a vowel, from vocālis sonorous, from vox a voice]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

c.1308, from O.Fr. vouel, from L. vocalis, in littera vocalis, lit. "vocal letter," from vox (gen. vocis) "voice" (see voice). Vowel shift in ref. to the pronunciation change between M.E. and Mod.Eng. is attested from 1909. The Hawaiian word hooiaioia, meaning "certified,"
has the most consecutive vowels of any word in current human speech; the English record-holder is queueing.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
She can't use one kind of trill, sigh, gargle or regional vowel inflection without grasping for another.
German rhyming poetry would be much hampered were it always necessary to rhyme an umlauted vowel with another umlauted vowel.
Vowel length is phonemic and plays an important role in the language.
Thus, the vowel harmony shifted from a velar to a pharyngeal paradigm.
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