What is a Syllable? Definition, Examples of English Syllables

Syllable definition: A syllable is a unit of sound that creates meaning in language. Consonants join vowels to create syllables.

What is a Syllable?

A syllable is one unit of sound in English. Syllables join consonants and vowels to form words.

Syllables can have more than one letter; however, a syllable cannot have more than one sound.

Syllables can have more than one consonant and more than one vowel, as well. However, the consonant(s) and vowel(s) that create the syllable cannot make more than one sound.

A syllable is only one sound.

Examples of Syllables in English

Syllables definition Syllables are formed when a vowel pairs with a consonant to create a unit of sound.

Some words have one syllable (monosyllabic), and some words have many syllables (polysyllabic).

New vowels sounds create new syllables.

  • long
    • This word has one syllable. There is only one vowel sound, created by the “o.”
  • shame
    • This word has one syllable. Even though there are two vowels, only one vowel makes a sound. The long “a” sound is the vowel sound; the “e” is a silent “e.”
  • silent
    • This word has two vowels sounds; therefore it has two syllables. The first syllable is “si” with the long “i” sound. The second syllable includes the letters “lent.”

Open Syllable vs. Closed Syllable

There are two ways that syllables formed in English words: open and closed syllables. Here is a brief discussion of both of those topics.

Open Syllable

What is syllableWhat is an open syllable? An open syllable is a syllable that has only one vowel and only one vowel sound. The single vowel in the open syllable occurs at the end of the word.

Examples of Open Syllables:

  • wry
  • try
  • no
  • go
  • a
  • chew
  • brew

Closed Syllable

What is syllablesWhat is a closed syllable? A closed syllable is a syllable that has only one vowel and only one vowel sound. A closed syllable ends in a consonant.

Examples of Closed Syllables:

  • clock
  • truck
  • ask
  • bin
  • trim
  • gym
  • neck
  • if

How Many Syllables Are in a Word?

A syllable starts with a vowel sound. That vowel most often joins with a consonant, or consonants, to create a syllable. Syllables will sometimes consist of more than one vowel but never more than one vowel sound.

Syllables create meaning in language. When vowels and consonants join to create sound, words are formed.

A single syllable makes a single sound. Some words have one unit of sound, which means they have one syllable. More than one sound means the word has more than one syllable.

Monosyllabic Words

Syllables examples Words with one syllable (monosyllabic)

Single vowel sound

  • man
    • This word has two consonants and one vowel
    • The one vowel sound (the short “a”) joins with the two consonants to create one syllable
  • cry
    • This word has two consonants and one vowel
    • The one vowel (the long “i” sound formed by the “y”) joins with the two consonants to create one syllable

Double vowels with single sound

  • brain
    • This word has three consonants and two vowels
    • The two vowels create one vowel sound (a long “a” sound)
    • The single vowel sound joins with the three consonants to make one syllable
  • tree
    • This word has two consonants and two vowels
    • The two vowels create one vowel sound (a long “e” sound)
    • The single vowel sound joins with the two consonants to make one syllable

Words ending with a silent “e”

  • lane
    • This word has two consonants and two vowels
    • The “e” and the end of the word is silent to represent a long “a” sound
    • The single vowel sound in this word is a long “a” sound
    • The single vowel sound joins with the two consonants to make one syllable
  • tile
    • This word has two consonants and two vowels
    • The “e” and the end of the word is silent to represent a long “i” sound
    • The single vowel sound in this word is a long “i” sound
    • The single vowel sound joins with the two consonants to make one syllable

Polysyllabic Words

Syllable meaning Words with more than one syllable (polysyllabic)

  • baker
    • two syllables
    • This word has three consonants and two vowels
    • “bak”: two consonants “m” “k” plus one vowel “a”
    • “er”: one vowel “e” plus one consonant “r”
  • growing
    • two syllables
    • This word has five consonants and two vowels
    • “grow”: three consonants “g”, “r”, and “w” plus one vowel “o”
    • “ing”: one vowel “i” plus two consonants “ng”
  • terrible
    • three syllables
    • This word has five consonants and three vowels
    • “ter”: two consonants “t” and “r” plus one vowel “e”
    • “ri”: one consonant “i” plus one vowel “i”
    • “ble” : two consonants “b” and “l” plus one vowel “e”

Note: The last “e” in “terrible” is not silent. The “e” and the end creates more of a “bull” sound when joined with the “b” and “l” than an “e” sound would normally make.

Summary: What are Syllables?

Define syllables: the definition of syllables is a phonological unit consisting of one or more sounds, including a vowel sound.

To sum up, a syllable:

  • is a unit of sound in language
  • joins vowels with consonants to create meaning
  • will always contain only one vowel sound
[i]
[i]