dia·​ton·​ic | \ ˌdī-ə-ˈtä-nik How to pronounce diatonic (audio) \

Definition of diatonic

: of, relating to, or being a musical scale (such as a major or minor scale) comprising intervals of five whole steps and two half steps

Other Words from diatonic

diatonically \ ˌdī-​ə-​ˈtä-​ni-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce diatonic (audio) \ adverb

Examples of diatonic in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Today, the two types of marimba used in Guatemala are the single marimba, with one row of diatonic keys like the white keys of the piano, and the double marimba, which adds a row of chromatic keys (the black keys). Los Angeles Times, 25 June 2021 The musical language is steeped in older modal scales, however crucial passages and final phrases settle into diatonic harmony (major and minor chords), the newer language that was emerging in Schütz’s time. New York Times, 20 Mar. 2020 Elements of atonality and sturdy diatonic harmony and moments of fleeting lyricism and blazing sonorities often merge or clash. New York Times, 23 Sep. 2019 Instead, Gaxiola devotes to the tuba for the bass notes, and in combination with a twelve-fret guitar, a diatonic accordion and drums, the group has become one of the vanguards of the genre. Pamela Bustios, Billboard, 30 Aug. 2019 Others had dreamed up the piano, diatonic tonality, and the 12-bar blues riff. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 28 June 2018 There are musical instruments—like Louisiana’s diatonic accordion. Erin Blakemore, Smithsonian, 16 Mar. 2017 The Coplandesque fields of diatonic harmony in the orchestra are as open as the prairie skies. John Von Rhein, chicagotribune.com, 20 June 2017 Often, Cajun music is accompanied by the metal triangle for percussion, and the Cajun accordion is diatonic and works similarly to the harmonica. Lisa Deaderick, sandiegouniontribune.com, 6 May 2017

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

1694, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for diatonic

borrowed from Late Latin diatonicus, borrowed from Greek diatonikós "(of a tetrachord) comprising two steps and a half step," from diátonos "a scale so comprised" (noun use of diátonos, adjective—with génos "type, kind" understood—nominal ablaut derivative of diateínein "to stretch as far as possible, extend," from dia- dia- + teínein "to stretch, extend") + -ikos -ic entry 1 — more at tenant entry 1

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The first known use of diatonic was in 1694

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Cite this Entry

“Diatonic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diatonic. Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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English Language Learners Definition of diatonic

: of or relating to a musical scale that has five whole steps and two semitones

More from Merriam-Webster on diatonic

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about diatonic


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