• synonyms


noun Physics.
  1. a quantum of sound or vibratory elastic energy, being the analogue of a photon of electromagnetic energy.
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Origin of phonon

First recorded in 1930–35; phon- + -on1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for phonon


  1. physics a quantum of vibrational energy in the acoustic vibrations of a crystal lattice
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Word Origin

C20: from phono- + -on
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

phonon in Science


  1. The quantum of acoustic or vibrational energy. Phonons, like all quanta in quantum mechanics, have wavelike and particlelike properties. Phonons propagate through the vibrating material at the speed of sound in that material. Phonons are especially useful in mathematical models for calculating thermal and vibrational properties of solids.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.