According to Collins English Dictionary, disemvowel is a transitive verb meaning 'to remove the vowels from (a word in a text message, email, etc.) in order to abbreviate it'.

Since the aforementioned dictionary says that disemvowel is informal: what is a formal word that has the same meaning?

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    How about txtfy? – John Lawler Jun 19 '14 at 21:37
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    I don't think that is a whit more formal, and I like "disemvowel" way better. As a teaching professor I would freely allow its usage in formal academic discourse by my students, much preferably without scare quotes, or use it myself in a scholarly article for publication. Yes it is a bit cheeky, but if it hits the mark in terms of meaning, and nothing more formal does, it earns a place in formal discourse by default. – Brian Donovan Jun 19 '14 at 21:56
  • "Disemvowel" sounds like "disembowel", which a lot more people are familiar with. I'd be careful about using it. – Panzercrisis Jun 20 '14 at 1:10
  • The formal word with the same meaning is right there in the dictionary definition: to remove the vowels. If that's too long for you (why?), tough luck — if there were a shorter way of saying that, the dictionary would have used it. – RegDwigнt Jun 20 '14 at 15:46

There isn’t one.

If you are going to write about this in a formal context (for example an academic article on how communication works in various forms of ‘limited’ media, such as texting), you would do one of two things:

  1. Use an explanatory phrasing throughout, like “abbreviate words by removing vowels”, vel sim.

  2. Use the term disemvowel with an explanatory note and perhaps ‘scare quotes’ the first time you use the word, and treat it as a context-specific technical term thereafter, thus removing its air of informality.


There are other verbs that have meanings similar to disemvowel, such as aphaeretise, syncopate, apocopate (for removing sounds from the beginning, middle, and end of words, respectively), synaeretise (for diphthongs turning into monophthongs), contract (a subset of syncopating only applied in multiverbal contexts, such as not being able to undergo syncope to n’t, but only when it appears after an inflected verb), etc.

These words are all more general, however, than disemvowel—they refer to the loss of any sound(s), whether consonant(s) or vowel(s)—and they are all based on the actual, spoken language, not the writing that secondarily represents spoken language. Disemvowelment, on the other hand, is an artificial by-product of specific (and very recent) types of written language: it is the removal of only one type of orthographical glyphs (vowels), and it is a removal that has no counterpart in the spoken language.

When vowels (and/or consonants) are syncopated in writing, it is to represent that they have been dropped in speech; when words are disemvowelled in writing, their pronunciation does not change: they are pronounced as though the removed vowels are still there.

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    The script I have that does this is called unvowel, since disemvowel is too long to type. It lops off ~30%. 〈f U R gng 2 wrt abt ths n a frml cntxt (4 exmpl an acdmc artcl on hw cmncshn wrks n vrz frmz v ‘lmtd’ mdia, sch az txtng) U wld do 1 v 2 thngz: ⒈Us an explntry frsng thrwt, lk “abrvi8 wrdz by rmvng vwlz”, vl sm. ⒉Us th trm dsmvwl wth an explntry nt & prhps ‘scr qts’ th 1st tm U us th wrd, & trt it az a cntxt-spsfc tchncl trm thrftr, ths rmvng its air v nfrmlty. Thr R othr vrbz tht hv mnngz smlr 2 dsmvwl, sch az afrts, syncp8, apcp8 (4 rmvng sndz frm th bgnng, mdl, & nd v wrdz〉 – tchrist Jun 19 '14 at 22:18
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    @tchrist Oh god, please stop it, you’re frazzling my brain! (Also, is introducing odd typos part of the script?) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 19 '14 at 22:21
  • Yeah, it’s brainbending, isn’t it? It’s especially cruel to polyglots, or folks without the original text. I do have some clauses at the end of the script labelled # fix errors that try to renege on some blocked transforms, like s/njst\b/ngst/g but other than stuff like that, no, not really. Come to chat and I’ll show you the rules I’m using. The tricky thing here is the order the rules are applied in, and being careful not to create nonsense without reneging. – tchrist Jun 19 '14 at 22:29

What makes disemvowel informal, it seems, is the coiner's apparently conscious choice (I can't believe it was by accident) to make it sound like a totally unrelated word corrupt a word (disembowel) that might have even worked on its own, if metaphorically. So while as far as I know Janus is right, there is no formal word, I don't see any reason why we can't make one up that doesn't make any kind of hyperbolic analogy. To that end, I'll put forth abjadify, after the word for alphabets like those of Arabic and Hebrew that often leave out vowels.

Actually, while I did just make that word up, I thought it might be a good idea to google it. Turns out someone else has already been there.

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  • I wouldn't say it's "totally unrelated." Both are about removing the internal parts of somethig. – Angew is no longer proud of SO Jun 20 '14 at 7:37
  • @Agnew, Hmm. I suppose it is a bit more than kinda related :). I posted that while procrastinating on the final project for a statistics class (which is also the context for my posting this). So I'm going to blame numbers for making me miss that. Anyway, I'll fix it now. – dmk Jun 20 '14 at 13:12

This concept is called a lipogram

A lipogram (from Ancient Greek: λειπογράμματος, leipográmmatos, "leaving out a letter") is a kind of constrained writing or word game consisting in writing paragraphs or longer works in which a particular letter or group of letters is avoided—usually a common vowel...


English words without vowels are words in English either written without letters that conventionally are considered vowel letters, or spoken without vowel sounds. In most languages of the world, all or nearly all lexical words have vowel sounds, and English is no exception; however, rhotic dialects of English (such as most varieties of American English) have words like nurse and word with a syllabic r sound, but these words are typically written with a vowel letter immediately prior to an r. On the other hand, there are words that are not written with an exclusively vowel letter (that is, 〈a〉 〈e〉 〈i〉 〈o〉 〈u〉), though they are pronounced with a vowel sound. There also are some interjections and onomatopoeia that contain neither vowel sounds nor syllabic r and which are thus spelled with no vowel letter.

Univocalic: having one vowel. Plurivocalic: more than one vowel

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