ca·​coph·​o·​ny ka-ˈkä-fə-nē How to pronounce cacophony (audio)
 also  -ˈka-
plural cacophonies
: harsh or jarring sound : dissonance sense 2
specifically : harshness in the sound of words or phrases
: an incongruous or chaotic mixture : a striking combination
a cacophony of color
a cacophony of smells

Did you know?

Cacophony Is a Noisy Word

If you’re hooked on phonetics, you may know that the Greek word phōnḗ has made a great deal of noise in English. Cacophony comes from a joining of phōnḗ ("sound" or "voice") with the Greek prefix kak- (from kakos, meaning "bad"), so it essentially means "bad sound." Other phat phōnḗ descendants include symphony, a word that indicates harmony or agreement in sound; polyphony, referring to a style of musical composition in which two or more independent melodies are juxtaposed in harmony; and euphony, a word for a pleasing or sweet sound. Kakos is responsible for far fewer English words, but one notable descendent is kakistocracy, meaning "government by the worst people," which, we'll be honest, doesn't sound great.

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 shouting added to the cacophony on the streets. the cacophony of a pet store full of animals
Recent Examples on the Web With the cacophony about O.J. on high volume in the mid-1990s, both on television and through an emerging technology called the World Wide Web, divisions emerged. Sean Gregory, TIME, 11 Apr. 2024 On the website, the scrolling experience is simple enough—scroll, rectangle, scroll, next rectangle—but within the rectangles, something else is happening: a cacophony of colour, scrawl, scribble, cross-outs, stickers, stamps, maps, photographs, sketches. Hazlitt, 3 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for cacophony 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cacophony.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

circa 1656, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of cacophony was circa 1656


Dictionary Entries Near cacophony

Cite this Entry

“Cacophony.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ca·​coph·​o·​ny ka-ˈkäf-ə-nē How to pronounce cacophony (audio)
plural cacophonies
: harsh unpleasant sound

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