Definition - A variant of a morpheme that sounds different than the morpheme, but not sufficiently different for it to be considered a different morpheme.

1. Allomorphs are to morphemes what allophones are to phonemes.

Example -
In English the past-tense morpheme ed can be expressed by the allomorphs /əd/ (as in stunted), /d/ (as in buzzed), and /t/ (as in fished).

Etymology -
The word was coined by combining the Greek allos, other, with morpheme. It was initially used to describe chemical structure variations.

Oxford English Dictionary -
Its first citation is from 1948:
"Morphemic alternants can conveniently be called allomorphs…"
(E. A. Nida in Language XXIV. 420 )


1. The OED now cites an even earlier instance: Garvin, Paul L. 1945. Pure-relational suffixes and postpositions in Hungarian. Language 21: 250-255, p. 253
(mugdan at

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