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

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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 After the civil rights movements of the ‘60s and ‘70s, which included the growth of the American Indian Movement, the dissonance between that reality and the common story of Thanksgiving got harder to ignore. Olivia B. Waxman, Time, "‘I Was Teaching a Lot of Misconceptions.’ The Way American Kids Are Learning About the 'First Thanksgiving' Is Changing," 21 Nov. 2019 But there are few other spaces in the National Gallery where the dissonance between American identity and American reality is so perfectly hidden in plain sight. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, "On a last walk through the National Gallery, I’m reassured by images of an uncertain future," 13 Mar. 2020 Calum Best, a senior business and finance major from Alexandria, Virginia, and a member of the student government, has seen the effect of that dissonance since returning from break. Alec Macgillis, ProPublica, "What’s It Like on One of the Only University Campuses Still Open in the U.S.?," 26 Mar. 2020 But that level of dissonance is kind of Hollywood’s thing. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "The Dissonance of a Land Acknowledgment at the Oscars," 10 Feb. 2020 ECM’s catalogue of some sixteen hundred albums contains abrasive sounds as well as soothing ones, clouds of dissonance alongside shimmering triads. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "The Pristine Empire of ECM Records," 25 Nov. 2019 As Childish Gambino, a lot of Glover’s work hinges on dissonance. Jason Parham, Wired, "Childish Gambino's 3.15.20 Is Apt for This Isolated Moment," 26 Mar. 2020 According to a subsequent report in The New York Times, that dissonance led to Trump screaming over the phone to Alex M. Azar II, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the CDC. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "We’re in a public health crisis. Where’s the CDC?," 23 Mar. 2020 Other comments expressed frustration over the dissonance between official messages from the government and the scenes playing out on the ground. Betsy Joles, 1843, "Coronavirus calling," 16 Mar. 2020

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.

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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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for dissonance

Last Updated

27 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Dissonance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dissonance. Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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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

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