Definition of


  1. (noun, attribute) a quality of a given color that differs slightly from another color
  2. (noun, attribute) (linguistics) a pitch or change in pitch of the voice that serves to distinguish words in tonal languages
  3. (noun, attribute) (music) the distinctive property of a complex sound (a voice or noise or musical sound)
    the muffled tones of the broken bell summoned them to meet
  4. (noun, attribute) the quality of something (an act or a piece of writing) that reveals the attitudes and presuppositions of the author
    from the tone of her behavior I gathered that I had outstayed my welcome
  5. (noun, cognition) a steady sound without overtones
  6. (noun, communication) a musical interval of two semitones
  7. (noun, communication) a notation representing the pitch and duration of a musical sound
  8. (noun, communication) the quality of a person's voice
    he spoke in a nervous tone of voice
  9. (noun, state) the general atmosphere of a place or situation and the effect that it has on people
    a clergyman improved the tone of the meeting
    it had the smell of treason
  10. (noun, state) the elastic tension of living muscles, arteries, etc. that facilitate response to stimuli
  11. (verb, body) give a healthy elasticity to
  12. (verb, change) change to a color image
  13. (verb, change) change the color or tone of
  14. (verb, communication) vary the pitch of one's speech
  15. (verb, communication) utter monotonously and repetitively and rhythmically

via WordNet, Princeton University

Origin of the word Tone

  1. 1340, from O.Fr. ton (13c.), from L. tonus "a sound, tone, accent," lit. "stretching" (in M.L., a term peculiar to music), from Gk. tonos "vocal pitch, raising of voice, accent, key in music," originally "a stretching, taut string," related to teinein "to stretch" (see tenet). Sense of "manner of speaking" is from 1610. First reference to firmness of… more

via Online Etymology Dictionary, ©2001 Douglas Harper

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