cal·​li·​ope kə-ˈlī-ə-(ˌ)pē How to pronounce calliope (audio)
in sense 2 also
ˈka-lē-ˌōp How to pronounce calliope (audio)
capitalized : the Greek Muse of heroic poetry
: a keyboard musical instrument resembling an organ and consisting of a series of whistles sounded by steam or compressed air

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With a name literally meaning "beautiful-voiced" (from kallos, meaning "beauty," and ops, meaning "voice"), Calliope was the most prominent of the Muses—the nine sister goddesses who in Greek mythology presided over poetry, song, and the arts and sciences. She is represented in art as holding an epic poem in one hand and a trumpet in the other. The musical instrument invented and patented in the 1850s, played by forcing steam or compressed air through a series of whistles, was named after the goddess. Because its sound could be heard for miles around, the calliope was effective in luring patrons to river showboats, circuses, and carnivals, which is why the instrument continues its association with such attractions today.

Examples of calliope in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Other species that are less common but have been seen in the state are calliope, Allen’s and Anna’s hummingbirds. Victoria Moorwood, The Enquirer, 10 Apr. 2023 Especially when even the highlights could be accompanied by a calliope. Kevin Sherrington, Dallas News, 1 Oct. 2020 The scene was straight out of Ringling Bros., the sound track a calliope. Dallas News, 18 Jan. 2022 The distinctive, merry sounds of a steam calliope float through the streets of downtown Baraboo, Wisconsin. Chicago Tribune Staff, Chicago Tribune, 21 July 2022 But the fair website said drive-thru exhibits included old fire trucks, livestock and a calliope. From Usa Today Network and Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 23 Oct. 2020 The haunting calliope music by jazz pianist Jason Moran is based on African American protest and celebration songs. Doug MacCash,, 23 Feb. 2018 Music will be provided by Irish musicians, a Chinese instrumental group and an old-fashioned calliope. Katharina Woodman, The Mercury News, 20 Sep. 2019 Since it was invented in the 19th century, calliopes have been associated with riverboats and traveling circuses -- the instrument's sounds were deemed too harsh and too loud for the liturgical settings for which it was created. Pelican Bomb,, 7 Mar. 2018 See More

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

Word History


Latin, from Greek Kalliopē

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of calliope was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near calliope

Cite this Entry

“Calliope.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


cal·​li·​ope kə-ˈlī-ə-(ˌ)pē How to pronounce calliope (audio)
ˈkal-ē-ˌōp How to pronounce calliope (audio)
: a keyboard musical instrument consisting of a set of whistles sounded usually by steam

named for Calliope, one of the nine goddesses in Greek mythology who had control over music and poetry

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