voice, sound

Quick Summary

The Greek root word phon means “sound.” This word root is the word origin of a number of English vocabulary words, including microphone, phone, and saxophone. An easy way to remember that phon means “sound” is through the word symphony, which is many instruments making a “sound” together.

Nothing Phony About Phon!

The Greek root word phon means “sound.” Let’s “sound” out the root word phon in the following podcast.

There are many devices humans use that emit and change sound. For instance, a microphone helps your relatively small voice makes a larger “sound.” A megaphone makes the small “sound” of your voice very large. The word phone itself was originally short for telephone, a device which carries the “sound” of your voice over long distances.

Music, as you might expect, has numerous words with the root phon in them, which means “sound.” A saxophone, for instance, was an instrument that made a “sound” characteristic of what Adolphe Sax, its inventor, was trying to reproduce. The sousaphone was invented by John Philip Sousa, who wanted to create a tuba that members of a marching band could carry while making that big, deep tuba “sound.” A xylophone makes its “sounds” by hitting a mallet on different lengths of wood. Many instruments which make “sound” together is a symphony. All these instruments can either be euphonious or good “sounding,” or they can make a cacophony, or horrible “sound” together.

Linguists as well have made large use of the root phon when talking about the “sounds” made when speaking. The discipline of phonetics deals with the “sounds” of words and speech. The phonemes of the language are the different small pieces of “sound” that carry meaning. And homophones are words that “sound” the same but mean different things and are usually spelled differently, such as “deer” and “dear,” and “sweet” and “suite.”

Enough “sounding” off about phon! Be happy that you didn’t have to listen to this on an old, scratchy phonograph record!

  1. microphone: device that makes the small ‘sound’ of a voice louder
  2. megaphone: device that makes a very big ‘sound’ when speaking into it
  3. phone: short for telephone
  4. telephone: device which carries ‘sound’ over long distances
  5. saxophone: instrument invented by Adolphe Sax
  6. sousaphone: instrument invented by John Philip Sousa
  7. xylophone: instrument which makes ‘sound’ via mallets hitting wood
  8. symphony: group of instruments which ‘sound’ together
  9. euphonious: of good ‘sound’
  10. cacophony: a harsh, unpleasant ‘sound’
  11. phonetics: study of the ‘sounds’ that words make
  12. phoneme: smallest units of ‘sound’ in words
  13. homophone: words that ‘sound’ the same but are different in meaning and usually spelling
  14. phonograph: device which played ‘sounds’ which were written on records


  • cacophony

    A cacophony is a loud, unpleasant mixture of sounds.

  • euphony

    Euphony is a pleasing sound in speech or music.

  • polyphonic

    The adjective polyphonic refers to something that consists of many sounds or voices.

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