a. A unit of spoken language consisting of a single uninterrupted sound formed by a vowel, diphthong, or syllabic consonant alone, or by any of these sounds preceded, followed, or surrounded by one or more consonants.
b. One or more letters or phonetic symbols written or printed to approximate a spoken syllable.
2. The slightest bit of spoken or written expression: Do not alter a syllable of this message.
tr.v. syl·la·bled, syl·la·bling, syl·la·bles
To pronounce in syllables.
[Middle English sillable, from Anglo-Norman, alteration of Old French sillabe, from Latin syllaba, from Greek sullabē, from sullabein, second aorist of sullambanein, to combine in pronunciation : sun-, syn- + lambanein, to take.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.