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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Umlaut \Um"laut\, n. [G., from um about + laut sound.] (Philol.) The euphonic modification of a root vowel sound by the influence of a, u, or especially i, in the syllable which formerly followed.

Note: It is peculiar to the Teutonic languages, and was common in Anglo-Saxon. In German the umlauted vowels resulting from a, o, u, followed by old i, are written ["a], ["o], ["u], or ae, oe, ue; as, m["a]nner or maenner, men, from mann, man. Examples of forms resulting from umlaut in English are geese pl. of goose, men pl. of man, etc.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1852, from German umlaut "change of sound," from um "about" (see ambi-) + laut "sound," from Old High German hlut (see listen). Coined 1774 by poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724-1803) but first used in its current sense "modification of vowels" 1819 by linguist Jakob Grimm (1785-1863).


n. 1 (context linguistics English) An assimilatory process whereby a vowel is pronounced more like a following vocoid that is separated by one or more consonants. 2 (context linguistics English) The umlaut process (as above) that occurred historically in Germanic languages whereby back vowels became front vowels when followed by syllable containing a front vocoid (e.g. Germanic ''lūsiz'' > Old English ''lȳs(i)'' > Modern English lice). 3 (context linguistics English) A vowel so assimilated. 4 (context orthography English) The diacritical mark ( ¨ ) placed over a vowel, usually when it indicates such assimilation. vb. 1 (context transitive English) To place an umlaut over (a vowel). 2 (context linguistics transitive English) To modify (a word) so that an umlaut is required in it.


n. a diacritical mark (two dots) placed over a vowel in German to indicate a change in sound [syn: dieresis, diaeresis]


Umlaut may refer to:

  • Umlaut (linguistics), a sound change where a vowel was modified to conform more closely to the vowel in the next syllable; in particular:
    • I-mutation, a specific type of umlaut triggered by a following high front vowel; in particular:
      • Germanic umlaut, a prominent instance of i-mutation in the history of the Germanic languages
        • Umlaut vowel, any front rounded vowel (because such vowels appeared in the Germanic languages as a result of Germanic umlaut)
  • Umlaut (diacritic), a pair of dots (¨) above a vowel, used in various languages; originally used to indicate vowels resulting from Germanic umlaut
    • Metal umlaut, the same diacritic used in names of heavy metal or hard rock bands for visual rather than phonetic effect
  • Lars Umlaut, a character playable in the Guitar Hero series of music video games
  • Umläut (born 1968), Clinton McKinnon's experimental Australian rock band
  • Umlaut (software), an open source link resolver front-end for libraries
  • Ümlaut (band), a band on CrimethInc
Umlaut (linguistics)

In linguistics, umlaut (from German "sound alteration") is a sound change in which a vowel is pronounced more like a following vowel or semivowel. The term umlaut was originally coined in connection with the study of the Germanic languages in which the process occurred prominently in the history of many of them (see Germanic umlaut). While the common English plural is umlauts, the correct German plural is Umlaute.

Umlaut is a form of assimilation, the process by which one speech sound is altered to make it more like another adjacent sound. If a word has two vowels, one far back in the mouth and the other far forward, more effort is required to pronounce the word than if the vowels were closer together. Thus, one possible linguistic development is for these two vowels to be drawn closer together.

In the general sense, umlaut is essentially the same as regressive metaphony.

The most commonly seen types of umlaut are the following:

  • Vowel raising, triggered by a following high vowel (often specifically a high front vowel such as /i/).
  • Vowel fronting, triggered by a following front vowel (often specifically a high front vowel such as /i/).
  • Vowel lowering, triggered by a following non-high vowel (often specifically a low vowel such as /a/).
  • Vowel rounding, triggered by a following rounded vowel (often specifically a high rounded vowel such as /u/).

These processes may be named by the vowel that triggers the change (for example, i-mutation, a-mutation, u-mutation, sometimes known as i-umlaut, a-umlaut, u-umlaut). However, processes named in this fashion may not have consistent meanings across language families.

All of these processes occurred in the history of the Germanic languages; see Germanic umlaut for more details. I-mutation is the most prominent of the processes, to the extent that it is often referred to simply as "umlaut".

Similar processes also occurred in the history of the Celtic languages, especially Old Irish. In this context, these processes are often referred to as affection.

Vowel-raising umlaut occurred in the history of many of the Romance languages, in which it is normally termed metaphony.

The umlaut vowel diacritic (two dots side-by-side above a vowel) was originally used to indicate vowels affected by Germanic umlaut.

Umlaut (software)

Umlaut is an open source front-end for a link resolver for libraries, which deals with advertising services for specific known citations. It runs as Ruby on Rails application via an engine gem. Umlaut accepts requests in OpenURL format, but has no knowledge base of its own, and is intended to be used as a front-end for an existing knowledge base. Currently only SFX is supported (using the SFX API), but other plugins can be written.

Usage examples of "umlaut".

I am Umlaut, also an emulator, just trying to deliver a letter to the Isle of Cats.

One night, back when he was a second-story man, he had the incredible luck to break into the affluent home of Minne Khlaetsch, an astrologer of the Hamburg School, who was, congenitally it seems, unable to pronounce, even perceive, umlauts over vowels.

The umlaut made two beady red eyes, the bottom prong of the star made a sharp muzzle, the top prongs a pair of horns, and the two side prongs a pair of goatlike ears.

I would have hated to miss their smooching with Umlaut, because I knew him and smooched him some myself.

Umlaut heaved it into the boat, and they brought it back to the ant mound.

Umlaut emulated a light serpent rider, and Sesame emulated a big black racer snake, and they managed to follow halfway close behind.

Umlaut had emulated one on occasion but wasn't eager to meet one personally.

Para and the others waited a reasonable distance away while Umlaut sat down beside the mound and emulated an ant as well as he could.

Umlaut stood and emulated an ogre and made as if to hurl a rock at the creature's snoot.

Lawrence started pedaling again and rode past that building: a spiraling flock of alert fedoras, prodding at slim terse notebooks with stately Ticonderogas, crab-walking photogs turning their huge chrome daisies, crisp rows of people sleeping with blankets over their faces, a sweating man with Brilliantined hair chalking umlauted names on a blackboard.

Unfortunately, for those interested in German cities, there are multiple ways to enter text containing diacritical marks, and as a result, searching for city names containing umlauts is not always easy.

Exceptions are indicated with diacritical marks, and umlauts (¨) are used to warn against letting vowels, especially terminal ones, fall silent or short.

Sesame showed him where there were several basins of water she had collected, and Umlaut used one to wash up.