Bilabial consonant

Tongue shape

In phonetics, a bilabial consonant is a consonant articulated with both lips.


    The bilabial consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) are:

    IPA Description Example
    Language Orthography IPA Meaning
    bilabial nasal English man [mæn] man
    voiceless bilabial stop English spin [spɪn] spin
    voiced bilabial stop English bed [bɛd] bed
    voiceless bilabial fricative Japanese 富士山 (fujisan) [ɸuʑisaɴ] Mount Fuji
    voiced bilabial fricative Ewe ɛʋɛ [ɛ̀βɛ̀] Ewe
    bilabial approximant Spanish lobo [loβ̞o] wolf
    bilabial trill Nias simbi [siʙi] lower jaw
    bilabial ejective Adyghe пӀэ [a] meat

    bilabial click release (many distinct consonants) Nǁng ʘoe [ʘoe] meat

    Owere Igbo has a six-way contrast among bilabial stops: [p pʰ ɓ̥ b b̤ ɓ]. Approximately 0.7% of the world's languages lack bilabial consonants altogether; these include Tlingit, Chipewyan, Oneida, and Wichita.

    The extensions to the IPA also define a bilabial percussive ([ʬ]) for striking the lips together (smacking the lips). A lip-smack in the non-percussive sense of the lips noisily parting would be [ʬ↓].

    The IPA chart shades out bilabial lateral consonants. This is sometimes read as indicating that such sounds are not possible. The fricatives [ɸ] and [β] may in fact often be lateral, but no language makes a distinction for centrality, and the allophony is not noticeable.

    See also



    General references

    • Ladefoged, Peter; Maddieson, Ian (1996). The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-19814-8. 
    • McDorman, Richard E. (1999). Labial Instability in Sound Change: Explanations for the Loss of /p/. Chicago: Organizational Knowledge Press. ISBN 0-967-25370-5.