ca·​coph·​o·​ny | \ ka-ˈkä-fə-nē How to pronounce cacophony (audio) , -ˈkȯ- also -ˈka- \
plural cacophonies

Definition of cacophony

1 : harsh or jarring sound : dissonance sense 2 specifically : harshness in the sound of words or phrases
2 : an incongruous or chaotic mixture : a striking combination a cacophony of color a cacophony of smells

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Cacophony Is a Noisy Word

Words that descend from the Greek word phōnē are making noise in English. Why? Because phōnē means "sound" or "voice." Cacophony comes from a joining of the Greek prefix kak-, meaning "bad," with phōnē, so it essentially means "bad sound." Symphony, a word that indicates harmony or agreement in sound, traces to phōnē and the Greek prefix syn-, which means "together." Polyphony refers to a style of musical composition in which two or more independent melodies are juxtaposed in harmony, and it comes from a combination of phōnē and the Greek prefix poly-, meaning "many." And euphony, a word for a pleasing or sweet sound, combines phōnē with eu-, a prefix that means "good."

Examples of cacophony in a Sentence

The cacophony of phlegmatic and tubercular lungs was punctuated here and there by a moan or a scream of someone terrified, thrashing in the throes of a nightmare. — Ronald Gearles, Undoing Time, 2001 Seething gas just beneath the sun's visible surface generates a cacophony of sound waves that ring the sun like a giant bell. — R. Cowen, Science News, 18 Mar. 2000 Shell casings littered the highway, where a cacophony of car alarms and sobbing rent the winter air. — Jeff Stein, GQ, December 1997 … no matter how forbearing he might have been, there were times when he simply needed to escape that cacophony of piping voices … — T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Road to Wellville, 1993 The sounds of barking dogs and sirens added to the cacophony on the streets. the cacophony of a pet store full of animals
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Recent Examples on the Web Blue jays and house sparrows add their voices to the constant cacophony. Cori Brown,, 29 May 2021 Yet without a clear vision of how each technology works alongside the next and without a clear understanding of which technologies offload which task best, technology’s cacophony can be deafening and confusing. Forrester, Forbes, 9 Apr. 2021 If the Stars miss the playoffs, Monday’s result will be lost in the cacophony of 14 overtime and shootout losses this season. Matthew Defranks, Dallas News, 3 May 2021 On the casino floors, with few windows or clocks, problem gamblers lose themselves in the rhythm of poker, slots, blackjack or other wagers, and a cacophony of pop music, shouts, beeps and chimes. Washington Post, 6 Apr. 2021 On the casino floors, with few windows or clocks, problem gamblers lose themselves in the rhythm of poker, slots, blackjack or other wagers, and a cacophony of pop music, shouts, beeps and chimes. Jeff Barker,, 1 Apr. 2021 And get some earplugs as a buffer to the cacophony of the male cicada, which seeks to draw a mate with a chirping that can reach more than 100 decibels. Washington Post, 31 Mar. 2021 Here there's no soundscape of polite clapping from watching fans or birds chirping -- just a cacophony of residents poking their heads out of windows, buses traveling underneath and the hooting of tuk-tuk horns. Ben Morse, CNN, 29 Mar. 2021 Sounds this intense can cause hearing loss; the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends limiting exposure to such cacophony to less than 15 minutes a day. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 4 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cacophony.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of cacophony

circa 1656, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for cacophony

borrowed from French & New Latin; French cacophonie, going back to Middle French, borrowed from New Latin cacophōnia, borrowed from Greek kakophōnía, from kakóphōnos "disagreeable-sounding, cacophonous" + -ia -ia entry 1

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Time Traveler for cacophony

Time Traveler

The first known use of cacophony was circa 1656

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Last Updated

10 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Cacophony.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for cacophony



English Language Learners Definition of cacophony

: unpleasant loud sounds


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