Difference Between Morpheme and Syllable

Main Difference – Morpheme vs Syllable

Morpheme and syllable represent the smallest units in a word. A morpheme is the smallest morphological unit in a word whereas syllable is the smallest speech sound in a word. Morpheme is related to the meaning and structure of a word while syllable is mainly related to the pronunciation of a word. This is the main difference between morpheme and syllable. Lets’ first look at morphemes and syllables separately before discussing the difference between them.Difference Between Morpheme and Syllable- infographic

What is a Morpheme

A morpheme is the smallest, meaningful, grammatical unit in a language. A morpheme cannot be further divided or analyzed. A morpheme is not identical to a word although some morphemes can act as words.

Morphemes can be classified into two main categories: free morphemes and bound morphemes. A free morpheme is a meaningful unit that can stand alone as a word. Given below are some examples of free morphemes.

bat, trust, talk, cat, old, dog, bring, law

Although all free morphemes are words, not all words are morphemes.

In contrast to free morphemes, bound morphemes cannot stand alone; they are always bound to another morpheme. They have no meaning on their own. The underlined parts in the following words are bound morphemes.






Bound Morphemes are further divided into two categories called derivational and inflectional morphemes. A derivational morpheme is a morpheme that is added to the root or base form of the word to create a new word. Adding a derivational morpheme will change the meaning or the class of the word.

Example 1:

Clear ⇒ Clearance

(verb)  → (noun)

Logic ⇒ Logical

(noun)→ (adjective)

Example 2:

Trust  Distrust

Pure  Impure

(Meaning is totally changed.)

Inflectional morphemes, on the other hand, do not cause a change in the meaning or word class, they merely serve as grammatical markers and indicate some grammatical information about a word.

Talked –Past Tense

dogs  – Plural

Reading  ProgressiveMain Difference - Morpheme vs Syllable

What is a Syllable

A syllable is a single unit of speech. It can be either a whole word or a part of a word. A syllable usually contains a vowel. This vowel is usually called the syllable nucleus. Syllables are phonological building blocks of words. Words can be divided into several categories based on the number of syllables they contain.  Given below are some examples:

Monosyllabic: Words that have only one syllable.

Ex: cat, hat, sky, me, he

Disyllabic: Words that have two syllables.

Ex: water, hotel, poem

Trisyllabic: Words that have three syllables.

Ex: Beautiful, poetry

Polysyllabic: Words that have more than three syllables.

Ex: hippopotamus, misunderstanding

A syllable has two main components: the Onset (O) and Rhyme (R). Onset contains any consonants that precede the nuclear (the vowel), and the Rhyme contains the nuclear (the vowel) as well as any marginal elements (consonants) that might follow it. The Rhyme, therefore, is classified into Nucleus (N), and Coda (Co). The Nucleus represents the “nuclear” or most sonorous element in a syllable. The Coda includes all consonants that follow the nucleus in a syllable.Difference Between Morpheme and Syllable

Difference Between Morpheme and Syllable


Morpheme is a meaningful morphological unit of a language that cannot be further divided.

Syllable is a unit of pronunciation having one vowel sound, with or without surrounding consonants, forming the whole or a part of a word.


Morpheme is related to the meaning and structure of words.

Syllable is related to the pronunciation of words.


Morphemes can be basically divided into two types: free morphemes and bound morphemes.

Syllables can be divided into two parts: onset and rhythm.


A morpheme can sometimes act as a word.

A single syllable can make a word.

 Image Courtesy: 

“Syllable illustration 1″ By Gringer (talk) – w:File:Syllable_illustrations_1.JPG, (Public Domain) via

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

Related pages

furnitures and fixtures definitionwhat is the difference between hotel and innhow do i analyze a poemoptical vs laser micewhat is saccharosezit vs pimplewhat are the different types of american bulldogssemantic vs syntaxstyrene and polystyrenewhat does satire mean in literary termspast perfect participlecoding strand definitionsad alliteration exampleswhat is the difference between a polyp and a medusavalency of elements in periodic tabledistinguish between musical sound and noisetaugh definitionisotropic material definitionmeaning acquaintancessolving projectile problemscomptons effectcaste and class in sociologymetric tonne vs tonnejuxtaposition literary termmolar mass of atpguar gum chemical structuredifference between hunan and szechuan sauceself and cross pollinationdefinition of bienniallymeaning of osmolaritywhat is the difference between renewable and nonrenewable resourcesprotostome examplesdefine chamferedsmooch kiss lipsstructural formula of diethyl ethergrapefruit pummelowhat is the difference between pure honey and raw honeyancillary units meaningdifference between macro and micro mineralsfinis conjugationdifference between torque and horse powermetal pediadefinition of spectrophotometrytermination in prokaryotesdefine transnational companycharacteristics of all purpose flourdifference between template and coding strandtypes of micrometerdefine kinematics physicshomographs and homophonesdodson dogswhat is coagulation and flocculationcompare series and parallel circuitsabbasids and umayyadsvalence and valencywhat is the difference between sucrose and sugarreactance and resistancewhat is the difference between monocytes and macrophagesdifference between ethanol and ethyl alcoholasexual fissionplural form of alumnusdynamic character definition literary termspring roll vs egg roll wrapperslink between inflation and unemploymentdefine intermolecular forcelist of linking verbs and helping verbsold english mastiff vs english mastiffdifference between a comma and semicoloncytosol and cytoplasmfree verse and blank verserevenge mean in hindiwhat is difference between syllabus and curriculumdifference between chinos and khakis