What know ye of an elegant way to describe a word or phrase that either perfectly or close-to-perfectly alternates vowels and consonants, either in sound or spelling?

Usage of such a word might include:

  • Honorificabilitudinatatibus is the longest ____________ic word in the English language.
  • People tend to call my parents "Jake and Alex" more often than "Alex and Jake." I think that's either because the former is a di-trochee or because it's a _________.
  • In non-_________ phrases, some consonants can become totally elided into their neighbors if the speaker's not careful. "Alex and Jake," said /'alɪksɛn'dʒɛɪk/ in my area, becomes vocally indistinguishable from both "Alex an Jake" and "Alex and Zhake."

I don't even know where to start with a dictionary or thesaurus search.

I'm hoping we can use formal or technical language for this. A compound word or phrase would be totally acceptable.

  • 2
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Aug 17, 2019 at 17:55
  • I think we're verging on trivia here. Arbitrarily invented 'words' (almost certainly a contradiction in terms) is a give-away. Commented Aug 17, 2019 at 18:17
  • 1
    "Open syllable."
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Aug 17, 2019 at 19:40
  • 1
    @EdwinAshworth, I pose this question because it's getting difficult to discuss this topic in an essay. "Phrase that alternates consonants and vowels" is kind of a mouthful. (I've removed the phrase "other than the arbitrarily invented word alternoconsonantovocal" from where to start with a dictionary or thesaurus search.)
    – Jove
    Commented Aug 17, 2019 at 20:35
  • 1
    Regrettably, "banana panorama" hasn't been adopted for this purpose.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Aug 17, 2019 at 22:31

1 Answer 1


The pattern you're observing can be described through phonotactic notation, with C for consonant and V for vowel. So a CVCV word would involve a consonant, vowel, consonant, and vowel (ex. data, pity, parry) formed of two CV syllables. To see the notation in action, see e.g. Brett Kessler and Rebecca Treiman, "Syllable Structure and the Distribution of Phonemes in English Syllables."

After some searching and checking some rhetorical dictionaries, I have found no single term for what you describe. For example, Scottish philosopher Alexander Bain, in the 19th century guide English Composition and Rhetoric (1867), had no term for such alternation but praised it as "more agreeable." It could also be described generally as euphonious (John Seely Hart, 1886), or pleasing to the ear. If you want a more technical account, I would resort to description: "a word made of alternating vowels and consonants," "a word formed of CV syllables," and so on.

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