Definition of intonation in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˌin(t)əˈnāSH(ə)n/


1The rise and fall of the voice in speaking: she spoke English with a German intonation
More example sentences
  • Chinese is a tonal language: words are differentiated not just by sounds but by whether the intonation is rising or falling.
  • Yeah, it's not a question, but rising intonation makes it one.
  • Her intonation is rising throughout, partly due to the presence of so many questions and exclamations, but also because the lines follow on each other so rapidly.
inflection, pitch, tone, timbre, cadence, lilt, rise and fall, modulation, speech pattern;
accentuation, accent, emphasis, stress
1.1The action of intoning or reciting in a singing voice.
chanting, intoning, incantation, recitation, singing
2Accuracy of pitch in playing or singing, or on a stringed instrument such as a guitar: poor woodwind intonation at the opening
More example sentences
  • Her voice is annoyingly reedy, with a fast vibrato and intonation slightly under pitch.
  • Such features as pitch or intonation, rhythm and tone are the first elements to be distinguishable.
  • Textural clarity requires rhythmic precision, knowing the important line at any point in the score, dead-on intonation, and the ability to sing lightly and incisively at the same time.
3The opening phrase of a plainsong melody.



Pronunciation: /-SHənl/
Example sentences
  • Prosody is ‘the rhythmic and intonational aspect of language’ and it can be a useful feature in language recognition and absolutely critical when the language is tonal like Chinese.
  • Many African and Asian languages depend on an intonational system much richer than those with Indo-European roots; for that reason, it is notoriously difficult for a European to learn, say, a modern Chinese dialect.
  • The president then switches to a few phrases ending with the intonational falls that are more normal in his speeches (audio clip).


Early 17th century (sense 3): from medieval Latin intonatio(n-), from intonare (see intone).

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: in·to·na·tion

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