Weekly Word: Sonorous

The adjective sonorous means “capable of giving out a sound”, “rich and full in sound”, “grandiloquent”, or “loud, deep, or resonant”. It derives from the Latin word sonor, meaning sound.

The noun form sonority means the “quality of being resonant”, so it overlaps the definition of the word resonance. But in linguistics, sonority has a specific meaning: “the degree to which a speech sound is like a vowel”. Another related word is sonant, “having sound”. In linguistics, a sonant refers to “a speech sound that by itself makes a syllable”.

You’re probably familiar with the sonant’s counterpart: the consonant. The word consonant comes from a Latin word meaning “to sound together”, which is why consonant as an adjective means “harmonious” and “in agreement”.

The qualities of sound have led to all sorts of sound-related metaphors in the English language, just like the qualities of an island evolved into words like isolate, insulate, and insularity. I’m sure we have countless other groups of words that follow a similar pattern. Do you know of any off the top of your head? I’d love to see some sort of diagram showing the evolution of words like these!