Consonant Definition and Meaning

Consonant, which comes from the Latin word consŏnans, is an adjective that is used to indicate a voice with respect to a different one that has the same consonance. For phonetics, consonant is the sound that, at the moment of being pronounced, produces an interruption of the air flow that expires or generates a shrinking of the vocal conduit that causes the sound to come out with friction.

What are consonant letters

The notion of a consonant, on the other hand, is often used to name the consonant letter, which is the sign that allows a sound and an articulation of a consonant character to be represented graphically. The letters of the Latin alphabet can be divided into vowels (A, E, I, O, U) and consonants (B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, Ñ, P, Q, R, S, T, V, W, X, Y, Z).

For example: “The teacher started teaching us consonants”, “Sometimes I confuse the spelling rules associated with certain consonants, such as MB or NV”, “Children first learn to recognize vowels and then consonants”.

Certain particular characteristics allow the consonants to be classified from the phonetic point of view, such as the phonation mode (depending on how the vocal cords vibrate), the articulation mode (how the passage of air is obstructed), the articulation point (where it has place of said obstruction) and the length (how long the pronunciation lasts).

Choking and loud

We find, therefore, the fact that consonants can be classified into two large groups such as the obstructive ones, in which when pronouncing an obstruction of the air outlet is produced, and the sonorous ones, which are those in which there is no there is obstruction.

In turn, the obstruction can be classified into three types basically. In the first place there would be the plosive or explosive consonants, the affricates and the fricatives. Examples of these three modes would be p, ch, and f respectively.

In the case of voicing consonants, we can also determine that they have their own classification. In this way we find three clearly defined typologies:

Liquids They are the consonants that are known to be the most similar in the alphabet to vowels. They have two modes: lateral, when the air is pronounced, it escapes through one or both sides of the tongue, and vibrating.

Nasal. They are so called because, when pronounced, the air passes through the root as a consequence of partially producing an occlusion of the mouth. Two consonants that are a perfect example of this typology are m and n.

Approximants. These are very similar to fricative consonants whose main difference is the fact that they are pronounced without as much obstruction as those.

Pulmonary consonants, based on the air that the lungs drive when pronouncing them, is another of the most frequent typologies used to classify consonants in general.

Other uses of the consonant idea

In the field of music, a consonant is that which creates a consonance. This concept is used to name the particularity of sounds that, when heard simultaneously, cause a pleasant effect.

Consonant, finally, is what has a link of similarity or conformity with something else with which it has correlation and correspondence.


About the author