Level SG/HS, AH
Definition Phonaesthesia occurs when certain sounds become associated with certain meanings, even though they do not attempt to imitate the sound (as in onomatopoeia). For example, it could be argued that <sl> is a phonaesthetic combination of sounds (or phonaestheme) in English in words such slip, slippery, slide, slither, sloppy, slimy, sleazy. The meanings are associated with wetness or greasiness, and gradually take on unpleasant connotations. You could probably add more words to the list (but you could also think of <sl> words, such as slant, which do not share this feature).
Notes 1. Writers such as Charles Dickens sometimes exploit phonaesthesia in the names they give their characters, such as Scrooge. Are there other names of characters in literature which predispose the reader to like or dislike the character? It is also exploited in names for products such as breakfast cereals.
2. Extended examples are given in David Crystal, The English Language (1988).
Compare Phonaesthesia is generally thought to be specific to particular languages. Related languages may exploit the same patterns, but there are also differences. Do any of the phonaesthemes listed below occur with the same meaning in a foreign language you know?
Concept Figures of speech
I think that kerfuffle is so phonaesthetic.