or shwa

noun Phonetics.
  1. the mid-central, neutral vowel sound typically occurring in unstressed syllables in English, however spelled, as the sound of a in alone and sofa, e in system, i in easily, o in gallop, u in circus.
  2. the phonetic symbol ə, used to represent this sound.

Origin of schwa

1890–95; < German < Hebrew shəwā, name of a diacritic marking schwa or no vowel Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for schwa



  1. a central vowel represented in the International Phonetic Alphabet by (ə). The sound occurs in unstressed syllables in English, as in around, mother, and sofa
  2. the symbol (ə) used to represent this sound

Word Origin for schwa

C19: via German from Hebrew shewā, a diacritic indicating lack of a vowel sound
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

Word Origin and History for schwa

1895, from German Schwa, ultimately from Hebrew shewa "a neutral vowel quality," literally "emptiness."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper