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

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- (from kakos,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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web For those whose power to control their environment is so extremely limited, the sweet cacophony of toppling pins in a bowling alley is nothing short of miraculous. Kate Santich, Orlando Sentinel, 1 Aug. 2022 These reef-dwelling creatures snap their claws to unleash jets of water that stun prey, producing a staticky-sounding, 210-decibel cacophony—as loud as a rock concert. Kate Golembiewski, Scientific American, 27 July 2022 The cacophony was overwhelming; the Mohegan leaders were up on benches, while Carlens Rigaud, a 17-year-old GPL counselor, danced on tables twirling a bandana. Alexander Thompson,, 21 July 2022 Going 70 mph, the GR86 whooshes along with a noisy 74 decibels inside, and the Mazda's top-up 79-decibel cacophony sounds like you're parked next to an idling 737. Rich Ceppos, Car and Driver, 21 July 2022 In some ways, the quiet moments are more resonant than the cacophony. Cesar Hernandez, San Francisco Chronicle, 18 July 2022 Other parent coaches near me and a cacophony of adults watching from the other side of the field were screaming at the top of their lungs. Jennifer Harvey, CNN, 20 June 2022 At a recent class, the yoga instructors joked that doing yoga in a public park is an endless series of pivots with ducks, birds and birthday celebrations adding to the cacophony of class. Los Angeles Times, 10 June 2022 As the noise about a Great Resignation grows to a cacophony, leaders find themselves at a pivotal crossroads between employee retention and business results. Benjamin Laker, Forbes, 27 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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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The first known use of cacophony was circa 1656

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Last Updated

9 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Cacophony.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on cacophony

Nglish: Translation of cacophony for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cacophony for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about cacophony


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