Words such as "mama", "papa", and "cancan" have only one unique syllable, and the whole word is just that syllable repeated once. Is there a name for such words? I am aware of reduplication, but I believe it refers only to other forms of a word that consist of repetitions of the base word. I'm looking for a term that refers to the base word consisting of repetitions of a syllable.

  • A reduplicative root. In Malay, for instance, where reduplication is often used for something like the plural, there are roots which are nevertheless already reduplicated. So, while kurakura means plural 'turtles', the rhyming verb purapura 'pretend' always appears reduplicated. Oh, and by the way, this probly ought to be moved to linguistics.
    – jlawler
    Apr 22, 2015 at 15:29
  • It would appear this question is language-agnostic. It's not specific to English. Apr 22, 2015 at 15:33
  • Here's a connected question: linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/6392/…
    – Yellow Sky
    Apr 22, 2015 at 16:44

1 Answer 1


The term is indeed reduplication. That term does not refer just to forms which repeat an existing base word. Reduplication may copy repeat just a syllable, or two syllables, or an entire word, and it frequently happens that only the reduplicated word exists without there being a simpler form.

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