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[vou-uh l] /ˈvaʊ əl/
  1. (in English articulation) a speech sound produced without occluding, diverting, or obstructing the flow of air from the lungs (opposed to consonant).
  2. (in a syllable) the sound of greatest sonority, as i in grill.
    Compare consonant (def 1b).
  3. (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 relating to a vowel.
Origin of vowel
1275-1325; Middle English < Old French vowel < Latin vōcālis vocal
Related forms
vowelless, adjective
vowellike, adjective
vowely, vowelly, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for vowel
  • 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.
  • Here she takes a bold run at the linguistic challenge, only to fall at the hurdle of the first vowel sound.
  • vowel sounds and sibilant consonants slide out of my mouth, shapeless and inchoate even to my close collaborator.
  • The only permitted number other than twenty that closes with the same vowel pattern is seventeen.
  • The rule that a short vowel should not be retained before sc-, sp-, or st-was no matter of common notoriety in his day.
  • On the first page, the vowel sound is introduced by a cartoon.
  • vowel length is phonemic and plays an important role in the language.
  • Thus, the vowel harmony shifted from a velar to a pharyngeal paradigm.
British Dictionary definitions for vowel


(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
a letter or character representing a vowel
Derived Forms
vowel-less, adjective
vowel-like, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Old French vouel, from Latin vocālis littera a vowel, from vocālis sonorous, from vox a voice
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for vowel

c.1300, from Old French vouel, from Latin vocalis, in littera vocalis, literally "vocal letter," from vox (genitive vocis) "voice" (see voice (n.)). Vowel shift in reference to the pronunciation change between Middle and Modern English 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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