A diphthong (// DIF-thong or // DIP-thong; from Greek: δίφθογγος, diphthongos, literally "double sound" or "double tone"; from δίς "twice" and φθόγγος "sound"), also known as a gliding vowel, is a combination of two adjacent vowel sounds within the same syllable. Technically, a diphthong is a vowel with two different targets: that is, the tongue (and/or other parts of the speech apparatus) moves during the pronunciation of the vowel. In most varieties of English, the phrase no highway cowboy / / has five distinct diphthongs, one in every syllable.
This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2019)
Diphthongs contrast with monophthongs, where the tongue or other speech organs do not move and the syllable contains only a single vowel sound. For instance, in English, the word ah is spoken as a monophthong (//), while the word ow is spoken as a diphthong in most varieties (//). Where two adjacent vowel sounds occur in different syllables—for example, in the English word re-elect—the result is described as hiatus, not as a diphthong. (The English word hiatus // is itself an example of both hiatus and diphthongs.)
Diphthongs often form when separate vowels are run together in rapid speech during a conversation. However, there are also unitary diphthongs, as in the English examples above, which are heard by listeners as single-vowel sounds (phonemes).