dis·​so·​nance | \ ˈdi-sə-nən(t)s How to pronounce dissonance (audio) \

Definition of dissonance

1a : lack of agreement the dissonance between the truth and what people want to believe especially : inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one's actions and one's beliefs — compare cognitive dissonance
b : an instance of such inconsistency or disagreement the mingling of bitter comedy and stark tragedy produces sharp dissonances— F. B. Millett
2 : a mingling of sounds that strike the ear harshly : a mingling of discordant sounds especially, music : a clashing or unresolved musical interval or chord

Examples of dissonance in a Sentence

the dissonance between what we are told and what we see with our own eyes
Recent Examples on the Web That dissonance—where potential financial opportunity, however deceptively sold, meets extreme risk—is a hallmark of the golden age of fraud. Ben Mckenzie, The New Republic, 10 Mar. 2022 Experts say the dissonance between Jackson, 51, and Thomas, 73, may present a fresh opportunity to explore racial identity, experience and expectations. Lucien Bruggeman, ABC News, 23 Feb. 2022 In the early two-thousands, indie rock—a genre once characterized by dissonance, subversion, and exclusivity—was in the throes of an identity crisis. Amanda Petrusich, The New Yorker, 31 Jan. 2022 Cognitive dissonance, the unpleasant mental tension that stems from conflicting beliefs, often kicks in when people are confronted with their mistakes. Mark Murphy, Forbes, 30 Jan. 2022 The dissonance between their present and these memories drives them to death. Emily Burack, Town & Country, 20 Mar. 2022 And, of course, in the United States, Black people have long grappled with the dissonance between fighting for the military of a country that consistently hurts and persecutes them. Nicole Phillip, The Week, 6 Mar. 2022 But Smith’s presence in the back of the auditorium—and not on the stage—spoke to something else: the dissonance between his contributions and his fame. Steven Levy, Wired, 31 Aug. 2021 On her way — unofficially by herself — to a No. 3 pop hit, Gladys Knight sings out all that misty dissonance. Danyel Smith, Los Angeles Times, 19 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'dissonance.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of dissonance

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for dissonance

see dissonant

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Time Traveler for dissonance

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The first known use of dissonance was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near dissonance

dissolving shutter


dissonance treatment

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Statistics for dissonance

Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Dissonance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dissonance. Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for dissonance


dis·​so·​nance | \ ˈdi-sə-nəns How to pronounce dissonance (audio) \

Kids Definition of dissonance

: an unpleasant combination of musical sounds


dis·​so·​nance | \ ˈdis-ə-nən(t)s How to pronounce dissonance (audio) \

Medical Definition of dissonance

: inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one's actions and one's beliefs — see cognitive dissonance

More from Merriam-Webster on dissonance

Nglish: Translation of dissonance for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of dissonance for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about dissonance


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