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 But the cacophony — and complaints — seem to largely peter out at the city limits. Samantha Hendrickson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "It seems like fireworks are going off every night in Milwaukee-area neighborhoods; what's behind the rise?," 25 June 2020 Israel Finkelstein maneuvered his car into a narrow spot reserved for excavators as a cacophony of horns blared behind him. Ruth Margalit, The New Yorker, "In Search of King David’s Lost Empire," 22 June 2020 The faces and smiles traverse the halls bringing with them a cacophony, punctuated by laughter and outbursts galore. Michael Heim, al, "Michael Heim, McGill-Toolen Catholic High School," 19 June 2020 Stuffed to the rafters, supermarkets overwhelm with the cacophony of choice. Bianca Bosker, The Atlantic, "The Supermarket Is One of America’s Best Ideas," 17 June 2020 The insects’ mating call creates a cacophony of white noise and causes excitement about a phenomenon that is supposed to occur only once every 13 or 17 years. Knvul Sheikh, Scientific American, "Noisy Cicadas Are Widely Misunderstood," 5 June 2020 Too many, and the commands become a cacophony that causes an erratic and overreactive immune response - a cytokine storm. Anchorage Daily News, "The ultimate COVID-19 mystery: Why does it spare some and kill others?," 17 June 2020 And this involves a cacophony of practices, traditions, biases and norms, some of which are more challenging to understand, let alone address with policy. C. Brandon Ogbunu, Scientific American, "For Scientific Institutions, Racial Reconciliation Requires Reparations," 12 June 2020 Fawns and bunnies carry no scent, though the parents do, and young animals -- excited by the sight of their parents and the chance to feed -- can create a cacophony that sounds like a dinner bell to predators. cleveland, "Baby animals on their own are rarely orphaned, wildlife experts say," 3 June 2020

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

see cacophonous

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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

3 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cacophony.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for cacophony


How to pronounce cacophony (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of cacophony

: unpleasant loud sounds

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