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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
Historical Examples
  • In case the verb itself begins with a vowel, the initial vowel is lengthened.

    A Greek Primer Wallace Stearns
  • The trick of adding a vowel to sound words is not unpleasing to the ear.

    Nights With Uncle Remus Joel Chandler Harris
  • Most of it is in the difficult assonant or vowel rhyme, hardly ever previously attempted in our language.

    Poems Denis Florence MacCarthy
  • The vowel is elided in some cases, and coalesces with another vowel in others.

  • Here we compare syllables, each consonant being followed by a vowel.

    A Handbook of the English Language Robert Gordon Latham
  • There was also considerable uncertainty about the modification of the vowel.

  • Metrists have no such objection; their practice being to say Cassope without detriment to the vowel.

    Opuscula Robert Gordon Latham
  • A vowel is like an olian harp; it makes a full and perfect sound of itself.

    The Comic Latin Grammar Percival Leigh
  • A Circumflex Accent (^) above the vowel o denotes the sound of o in bôrn.

    Raphael Estelle M. Hurll
  • Meso: middle: as prefix, drops the o when stem begins with a vowel.

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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