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A synalepha or synaloepha[1] pronounced /ˌsɪnəˈliːfə/ is the merging of two syllables into one, especially when it causes two words to be pronounced as one.

The original meaning in Greek is more general than modern usage, and also includes coalescence of vowels within a word. Similarly, synalepha most often refers to elision (as in English contraction), but it can also refer to coalescence by other metaplasms: synizesis, synaeresis, or crasis.[2]


Spanish and Italian use synalepha very frequently in poetry. For instance, in a hendecasyllable by Garcilaso de la Vega:

  • Los cabellos que al oro escurecían'.'
  • "The hair that from gold grew darker"

The words que and al form one syllable when counting them because of the synalepha. The same thing happens with -ro and es-, so that the line has eleven syllables (syllable boundaries shown by a period):



  1. ^ Greek συν-αλοιφή (or συν-αλιφή), from συναλείφω: συν- "together" and ἀλείφω "I anoint", "smear". Alternation between οι, ει, and ι in verb root is ablaut.
  2. ^ W. Sidney Allen, Vox Graeca, chart of "Types of vowel-junction", p. 98.

See also


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