Definition of overtone in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈəʊvətəʊn/


1A musical tone which is a part of the harmonic series above a fundamental note, and may be heard with it.
Example sentences
  • This third phase of tonal theory argued in favour of a natural basis for major - minor tonality in the overtones of the harmonic series.
  • The principle is the same, but the notes become even more complex through the use of harmonic overtones and (again, my guess) unconventional bowing.
  • The fundamental and its overtones are set into vibration very quickly, and it would take someone with a very keen aural sense to hear all of these tones separately.
1.1 Physics A component of any oscillation whose frequency is an integral multiple of the fundamental frequency.
Example sentences
  • This allows either the crystal's fundamental frequency or its third overtone to be selected.
  • That is, vowels are created by the first few broad peaks on the amplitude envelope imposed on the overtone spectrum by vocal-tract resonances.
  • Speculation: presumably, the system has also evolved to transmit information about high frequency overtones.
2 (often overtones) A subtle or subsidiary quality, implication, or connotation: the decision may have political overtones
More example sentences
  • His vibrant paintings offer traditional scenes of Nigerian villages and tribal customs, with only a few subtle political overtones.
  • The term ‘reactionary force’ has political overtones and historical connotations.
  • In furthering this project, I suggest, it is critical to establish the play's precise date if we would recuperate political overtones and connotations activated in the earliest productions.
connotation, hidden meaning, secondary meaning, implication, association, undercurrent, undertone, echo, vibrations, hint, suggestion, insinuation, intimation, flavour, colouring, smack, suspicion, feeling, aura, atmosphere, nuance, trace, murmur, touch, vein
rare subcurrent


Mid 19th century: from over- + tone, suggested by German Oberton.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: over|tone

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