\ ˈklef How to pronounce clef (audio) \

Definition of clef

: a sign placed at the beginning of a musical staff to determine the pitch of the notes

Illustration of clef

Illustration of clef

clef: 1 treble clef, 2 bass clef

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Did You Know?

A musical-notation symbol at the beginning of a music staff, a clef indicates the pitch of the notes on the staff. Clefs were originally letters, identifying letter-named pitches, that were added to one or more of the staff's lines (thus providing a "key" to their identity). Knowing the identity of a single line permitted the musician to identify all the other lines and spaces above and below. Clefs were first regularly used in the 12th century. The Gothic letter forms of G and F evolved into the modern treble and bass clefs, respectively; the letter C evolved into the rarer alto, tenor, baritone, and soprano clefs.

Examples of clef in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Lauren Weisberger's 2003 roman à clef tells the story of idealistic college graduate Andy Sachs, who moves to New York City to follow her dream of becoming a writer at an esteemed publication. Alexandra Gekas, Woman's Day, "12 Best Movies Based on Books," 2 Aug. 2010 Alma Har’el is directing the feature writtten by LaBeouf, which tells, in a roman-a-clef fashion, a story about LaBeouf’s relationship with his dad. Gregg Kilday, The Hollywood Reporter, "Shia LaBeouf Looks Like His Own Dad in New Movie Role," 1 June 2018 This novel is sort of a scathing roman à clef about Clare Boothe Luce and her husband. Amy Sutherland,, "Admires books that ignite strong reactions," 2 May 2018 Toby is a writer whose gauzy roman à clef is being adapted into a play; Eric works for a nonprofit. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "The Inheritance and the Ambitions of Queer Art," 18 Apr. 2018 Alma Har’el is due to direct the feature project that LaBeouf wrote and that tells, in a roman-a-clef style, a story about LaBeouf's relationship with his father. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, "Lucas Hedges to Play Shia LaBeouf in LaBeouf Biopic 'Honey Boy'," 17 Mar. 2018 But Gerwig insists that the film is not a roman à clef, and that Lady Bird is her own unique young woman. Debbie Arrington, sacbee, "Greta Gerwig on filming ‘Lady Bird’ in Sacramento: The city showed its ‘most beautiful, charming self’ | The Sacramento Bee," 3 Nov. 2017 Somerset Maugham had worked for MI6 during World War I and never before had a former British intelligence officer produced a roman à clef about his undercover work. WSJ, "Henry Hemming," 14 July 2017 There is also one four-year term on the Addyston Board of Trustees Public Affairs ClevesMayor: One to be elected for an unexpired term ending Dec. 31, 2019. Kelly Mcbride,, "Candidates file for township, cities and school boards," 12 Aug. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'clef.' 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 clef

circa 1577, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for clef

French, literally, key, from Old French, from Latin clavis — more at clavicle

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Dictionary Entries near clef

Clee Hills







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Time Traveler for clef

The first known use of clef was circa 1577

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English Language Learners Definition of clef

music : a sign that is placed at the beginning of a line of written music to show the pitch of the notes


\ ˈklef How to pronounce clef (audio) \

Kids Definition of clef

: a sign placed on the staff in writing music to show what pitch is represented by each line and space

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More from Merriam-Webster on clef

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with clef

Spanish Central: Translation of clef

Nglish: Translation of clef for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about clef

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