Definition of diphthong in English:


See synonyms for diphthong on

Translate diphthong into Spanish


  • 1A sound formed by the combination of two vowels in a single syllable, in which the sound begins as one vowel and moves toward another (as in coin, loud, and side)

    Often contrasted with monophthong, triphthong

    ‘these are the most common type of diphthong among the languages of the world’
    • ‘The language has a musical quality and employs a great number of diphthongs and other vowel combinations.’
    • ‘Density is thus largely a function of word stock and reflects at this stage in Coolidge's work an affinity for monosyllabic words, particularly those that couple long vowels or diphthongs with consonant blends.’
    • ‘Most Modern English vowels are diphthongs, so obeying the ‘one sound, one letter’ rule demands either pairing of vowel letters or replacing all our current vowel sounds with the fewer pure sounds, as in Italian and Spanish.’
    • ‘Similarly, a study of Tunisian women in Morocco showed that older women categorically use diphthongs /aw/and/aj /, while middle-aged women alternate between diphthongs and monophthongs.’
    • ‘Like U.S. Spanish, early Spanish exhibited a strong tendency to form diphthongs from contiguous vowels.’
    • ‘Few novice teachers addressed vowel r words, more difficult vowel team words such as those with diphthongs having more than one sound, or two-syllable words.’
    • ‘For these speakers, the diphthong in fife starts out near the vowel of bud, and ends near the vowel of bade; while the diphthong in five starts near the vowel of hod, and ends nears the vowel of hed.’
    • ‘In most contemporary dialects, it's a diphthong with a high front off-glide, so you might take it as mixed on the hot-or-not dimension, but ‘a front vowel sound’ it is definitely not.’
    • ‘Our role model was our head teacher, Miss Osborne, known as the High Mistress, who flapped about the place in her gown and lapsed into classical Greek pronunciation whenever she used a diphthong.’
    • ‘People in that part of Bolivia have a lot of Quechua and Aymara words in their vocabulary, and ones with final falling-sonority diphthongs are pretty typical.’
    • ‘The diphthongs au and ai are pronounced like those in ‘cow’ and ‘sky,’ respectively.’
    • ‘The diphthongs ayyy and eeee turn up again and again, long vowels lengthened by slow consonants around them.’
    • ‘This was adopted into English and subjected to the normal sound-changes of the late medieval and early modern period: the final - e ceased to be pronounced and the long i became a diphthong.’
    • ‘Pupils were asked to read a range of sentences and words, but what we were looking at was the merger of the diphthongs in the words near and square.’
    • ‘All Australian accents are regional, and the elongated diphthong, particularly the ‘ooo’, is the immediate giveaway for New South Welshpersons.’
    • ‘The formation of diphthongs from contiguous vowels represents a common prohibition in languages against starting a syllable with a vowel, as opposed to a consonant.’
    1. 1.1A digraph representing the sound of a diphthong or single vowel (as in feat).
      ‘The Pali alphabet used for written Burmese is made up of eight vowels, three diphthongs, 32 consonants, and several tones.’
      • ‘However, all subsequent authors except Meek have used the diphthong, so Archaeocyathus is now treated as a justified emendation of Billings' original spelling.’
    2. 1.2A compound vowel character; a ligature (such as æ).



/ˈdipˌTHäNG/ /ˈdɪpˌθɑŋ/ /ˈdifˌTHäNG/ /ˈdɪfˌθɑŋ/


Late Middle English from French diphtongue, via late Latin from Greek diphthongos, from di- ‘twice’ + phthongos ‘voice, sound’.