The word refers to the “systematic pairing of form and meaning in a language” where “a word with a phonestheme in it has other material in it that is not itself a morpheme.”
For example, the English phonestheme “gl-” occurs in a large number of words relating to light or vision, like “glitter”, “glisten”, “glow”, “gleam”, “glare”, “glint”, and so on
I love this stuff. Here’s a list of English phonesthemes.
- /st/ is stable, stalwart, staunch, steadfast, steady, stolid, stout, and sturdy
- /sk/ scuffles, skips, scuttles, scoots, scampers, scurries, and skedaddles
- /dr/ drips, dribbles, drools, dredges, drizzles, drops, droops, and drags with the dross, dregs and the dreck