noun pho·neme \ˈfō-ˌnēm\

linguistics : the smallest unit of speech that can be used to make one word different from another word

Full Definition of PHONEME

:  any of the abstract units of the phonetic system of a language that correspond to a set of similar speech sounds (as the velar \k\ of cool and the palatal \k\ of keel) which are perceived to be a single distinctive sound in the language

Origin of PHONEME

French phonème, from Greek phōnēmat-, phōnēma speech sound, utterance, from phōnein to sound
First Known Use: 1894

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms

ablaut, allusion, anacoluthon, diacritic, gerund, idiom, infinitive, metaphor, semiotics, simile
PHONEME Defined for Kids


noun pho·neme \ˈfō-ˌnēm\

Definition of PHONEME for Kids

:  one of the smallest units of speech that distinguish one utterance from another
Medical Dictionary


noun pho·neme \ˈfō-ˌnēm\

Medical Definition of PHONEME

:  a member of the set of the smallest units of speech that serve to distinguish one utterance from another in a language or dialect <the \p\ of English pat and the \f\ of English fat are two different phonemes>
pho·ne·mic \fə-ˈnē-mik, fō-\ adjective
pho·ne·mi·cal·ly \-mi-k(ə-)lē\ adverb


Next Word in the Dictionary: phonemicPrevious Word in the Dictionary: phonematicsAll Words Near: phoneme
How to use a word that (literally) drives some people nuts.
Test your vocab with our fun, fast game
Ailurophobia, and 9 other unusual fears