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[fuh-net-iks, foh-] /fəˈnɛt ɪks, foʊ-/
noun, (used with a singular verb)
the science or study of speech sounds and their production, transmission, and reception, and their analysis, classification, and transcription.
the phonetic system or the body of phonetic facts of a particular language.
the symbols used to represent the speech sounds of a language.
Origin of phonetics
First recorded in 1835-45; See origin at phonetic, -ics


[fuh-net-ik, foh-] /fəˈnɛt ɪk, foʊ-/
Also, phonetical. of or relating to speech sounds, their production, or their transcription in written symbols.
corresponding to pronunciation:
phonetic transcription.
agreeing with pronunciation:
phonetic spelling.
concerning or involving the discrimination of nondistinctive elements of a language. In English, certain phonological features, as length and aspiration, are phonetic but not phonemic.
(in Chinese writing) a written element that represents a sound and is used in combination with a radical to form a character.
1820-30; < New Latin phōnēticus < Greek phōnētikós vocal, equivalent to phōnēt(ós) to be spoken (verbid of phōneîn to speak) + -ikos -ic
Related forms
phonetically, adverb
nonphonetic, adjective
nonphonetical, adjective
nonphonetically, adverb
unphonetic, adjective
unphonetical, adjective
unphonetically, adverb
Can be confused
fanatic, phonetic. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for phonetics
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In its phonetics, it possesses six elements which to the Spaniards were new.

  • Sussex men are curiously intolerant of the phonetics of orthography.

  • (a) phonetics, which teaches us to recognize and to reproduce sounds and tones.

  • How can we combine a study of phonetics with a study of orthography?

  • Jones is lecturer in phonetics at University College, London.

    The American Language Henry L. Mencken
  • The operator had taken it literally, and it was a small study in phonetics.

    The Helpers Francis Lynde
  • There is a difference between a connexion in phonetics and a connexion in grammar.

    The English Language Robert Gordon Latham
  • Here the connexion in phonetics and the connexion in language do not closely coincide.

    The English Language Robert Gordon Latham
British Dictionary definitions for phonetics


(functioning as sing) the science concerned with the study of speech processes, including the production, perception, and analysis of speech sounds from both an acoustic and a physiological point of view. This science, though capable of being applied to language studies, technically excludes linguistic considerations Compare phonology


of or relating to phonetics
denoting any perceptible distinction between one speech sound and another, irrespective of whether the sounds are phonemes or allophones Compare phonemic (sense 2)
conforming to pronunciation: phonetic spelling
Derived Forms
phonetically, adverb
Word Origin
C19: from New Latin phōnēticus, from Greek phōnētikos, from phōnein to make sounds, speak
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 phonetics

"scientific study of speech," 1841, from phonetic; also see -ics.



"representing vocal sounds," 1803, from Modern Latin phoneticus (1797), from Greek phonetikos "vocal," from phonetos "to be spoken, utterable," verbal adjective of phonein "to speak clearly, utter," from phone "sound, voice" (see fame (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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phonetics in Medicine

phonetics pho·net·ics (fə-nět'ĭks)
The branch of linguistics that deals with the sounds of speech and their production, combination, description, and representation by written symbols.

phonetic pho·net·ic (fə-nět'ĭk)

  1. Of or relating to phonetics.

  2. Representing the sounds of speech with a set of distinct symbols, each designating a single sound.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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