Definition of tone in English:

tone

Syllabification: tone
Pronunciation: /tōn
 
/

noun

  • 1A musical or vocal sound with reference to its pitch, quality, and strength: the piano tone appears monochrome or lacking in warmth
    More example sentences
    • Yes, his name is uttered amongst the musical cognoscenti in hushed tones.
    • By the time the entrées arrived, I found myself taking tiny bites and talking in hushed tones about the quality of the parsnips in my soup.
    • She started to laugh, the musical tones reverberating through the halls before quieting.
    Synonyms
    timbre, sound, sound quality, voice, voice quality, color, tonality
  • 1.1A modulation of the voice expressing a particular feeling or mood: a firm tone of voice
    More example sentences
    • I can see their expression and hear their tone of voice now, clear as anything.
    • She was excited, but couldn't manage a happy tone of voice to express it.
    • I could see some of the excitement drain out of her expression and her tone of voice changed.
  • 1.2A musical note, warble, or other sound used as a particular signal on a telephone or answering machine.
    More example sentences
    • His mobile telephone rang with a tone indicating he was in Spain but was switched off without a word being said.
    • The harsh tone of the telephone disrupts my slumber.
    • I make sure the volume on my beep tone is always turned up as high as it will go.
    Synonyms
    note, signal, beep, bleep
  • 2The general character or attitude of a place, piece of writing, situation, etc.: trust her to lower the tone of the conversation there was a general tone of ill-concealed glee in the reporting
    More example sentences
    • They also wanted to have the conference at a place of higher learning in order to set a tranquil and academic tone for the event.
    • And yet there is no disputing that the event, its militant tone and its choice of target will provoke terrible memories and associations.
    • I hate those twenty-four hour periods when a single event sets the tone for the whole rotation.
  • 2.1 informal An atmosphere of respectability or class: they don’t feel he gives the place tone
  • 3 Phonetics (In some languages, such as Chinese) a particular pitch pattern on a syllable used to make semantic distinctions.
    More example sentences
    • Ethnic Liberian languages usually contain two or three distinct tones, based on pitch, which indicate semantic or grammatical differences.
    • Chinese pronunciation involves four tones, each indicated by a tone mark.
    • Every syllable has an associated tone or pitch - high, low, medium, falling, rising, or whatever.
  • 3.1 Phonetics (In some languages, such as English) intonation on a word or phrase used to add functional meaning.
    More example sentences
    • In English, these tones suggest finality, the fall frequently occurring at the end of a statement, the rise at the end of a yes-no question.
  • 4 (also whole tone) A basic interval in classical Western music, equal to two semitones and separating, for example, the first and second notes of an ordinary scale (such as C and D, or E and F sharp); a major second or whole step.
    More example sentences
    • He uses this music to introduce octaves, accented rhythms, a whole tone scale and a continuous cross-hand pattern.
    • At the climax of the third chant, she so subdivides her forces that eventually, all twelve tones of the chromatic scale are encompassed.
    • The Hellenistic mind of the Byzantines allowed musicians to draw systems of tones from the music of ancient Greece.
  • 5The particular quality of brightness, deepness, or hue of a tint or shade of a color: an attractive color that is even in tone and texture stained glass in vivid tones of red and blue
    More example sentences
    • The paintings seem at first to be sombre in tone, coloured mostly by umbers and sepia-like hues.
    • His visible brushstrokes in the foreground and creamy subdued tones interspersed with bright oranges and red hues are very seductive.
    • Other than delicate pink flesh tones, heavenly shades of blue predominate, accented with green and white.
    Synonyms
  • 5.1The general effect of color or of light and shade in a picture.
    More example sentences
    • Here Turner had moved away from recording topography and was preoccupied with achieving specific effects of light and tone.
    • I'm sure the genius that was Joseph Mallord William Turner, landscaping master of light, tone and shade would fully endorse some of the previous groundbreaking entries.
    • Light's bleaching glare may saturate the picture plane, obscuring tone, details and minute particulars.
  • 5.2A slight degree of difference in the intensity of a color.
  • 6 (also muscle tone) The normal level of firmness or slight contraction in a resting muscle.
    More example sentences
    • The Apgar score was based on heart rate, respiratory effort, muscle tone, reflex irritability, and skin color.
    • I agree with him that upper airway muscle tone is decreased during sleep and is an important component of obstructive sleep apnea.
    • Physical exercise also is encouraged to assist in weight reduction and increase muscle tone.
  • 6.1 Physiology The normal level of activity in a nerve fiber.
    More example sentences
    • Abnormal exams included clearly severe abnormalities in motor tone, levels of activity, or delays.
    • Apparently, the increase in ectopic beats might be related to the increase in vagal tone.
    • An increase of vagal tone after exercise occasionally can lead to episodes of atrial fibrillation.

verb

[with object] Back to top  
  • 1Give greater strength or firmness to (the body or a part of it): exercise tones up the muscles
    More example sentences
    • Kata training is great for defense, raising your level of fitness, toning your body muscles and releasing those dangerously high levels of stress.
    • It strengthens and tones your muscles, raises your body's metabolism and knocks up to six inches off your waist, hips and stomach measurement in a single session
    • It is also great for toning your upper body, arms and leg muscles.
  • 1.1 [no object] (tone up) (Of a muscle or bodily part) became stronger or firmer.
    More example sentences
    • He had a lot to say about muscle, tissue and toning up.
    • But Alex warns that weight isn't always a reliable indication of how effect your fitness regime is; you could be toning up and turning muscle to fat, but it won't necessarily show on the scales.
    • Even after just a few sessions, you will see your muscles tone up, fatty places firm up and even a few pounds fall away.
  • 2 [no object] (tone with) Harmonize with (something) in terms of color: the rich orange color of the wood tones beautifully with the yellow roses
    More example sentences
    • Keep the floor simple by sanding and add blocks of colour in rugs in pastels that tone with billowing curtains on poles in chintz and damask.
    • Some men had shirts made to measure to tone with the suit.
    • The colors were perfectly toned with his skin and hair and eye color.
  • 3 Photography Give (a monochrome picture) an altered color in finishing by means of a chemical solution.
    More example sentences
    • With the toner used at full strength, the print should be fully toned in about six to eight minutes.
    • Unlike selenium, which selectively tones the low values first, gold toners tend to affect the entire image at once.
    • Sepia toning originally was developed to extend the archival life of early black-and-white silver-based prints.

Phrasal verbs

tone something down

Make something less harsh in sound or color.
More example sentences
  • I would suggest toning the colours down a bit, so it's not quite so harsh on the eyes
  • We have gone away from the bright colour scheme and toned it down slightly.
  • Would it really have detracted if the big keyboard synth sounds had been toned down to a minimum?
Make something less extreme or intense: she saw the need to tone down her protests
More example sentences
  • Critics last night claimed the report had been toned down because of concerns that its most ‘extreme’ findings would ruffle too many feathers within the establishment.
  • Next time, boys, it may be possible to tone it down just a notch without losing any of the entertainment value.
  • Brendan heard himself being melodramatic and toned it down a couple of notches.

Derivatives

toned

adjective
[in combination]: the fresh-toned singing

toneless

adjective
More example sentences
  • His voice was toneless, but his expression was sceptical.
  • They read their confessions in toneless voices.
  • She hardly recognized the cold, toneless voice coming out of her at that moment, and it scared her.

tonelessly

adverb
More example sentences
  • ‘Your hearing's just fine,’ I said tonelessly.
  • ‘Leave now,’ he repeated, firmly, yet tonelessly.
  • ‘You can stop shaking him now,’ I said tonelessly.

Origin

Middle English: from Old French ton, from Latin tonus, from Greek tonos 'tension, tone', from teinein 'to stretch'.

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