dis·​so·​nance | \ˈdi-sə-nən(t)s \

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

Occasionally people employ practical steps that help to blur the financial dissonance and to put everyone at ease. Henry Alford, Town & Country, "Rich You, Poor Me," 6 Aug. 2014 But when the pair got engaged in 2015, a dissonance stormed their otherwise peaceable relationship. New York Times, "She Wanted Lavish, He Was Fine With City Hall," 8 June 2018 Musically, the two scores couldn’t be more different, yet the dissonance that jars most is visual. Peter Dobrin, Philly.com, "Menotti and Weill make an odd double-bill at Curtis Opera Theatre," 4 May 2018 Passages of crashing orchestral dissonance give way to sweeping lyric lines in the strings, which in turn yield to periods of busy, gnarly phrase-making across the ensemble. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, "Grant Park Orchestra review: A fitting 80th birthday tribute to William Bolcom," 7 July 2018 The Latin rhythmic undercurrent provided another layer of interest, as did the bursts of color and dissonance that Weiss articulated in his right hand. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, "Pianist Michael Weiss evokes memories of Johnny Griffin," 22 June 2018 The dissonance … cannot be easily explained or resolved. Chris Megerian, Anchorage Daily News, "For Paul Manafort, an uncommonly comfortable life behind bars," 12 July 2018 This dissonance between fact and fancy was made clear earlier this week. NBC News, "North Korea shatters Trump's boastful assurances of an easy path to denuclearization," 7 July 2018 The gentrification also plays up the dissonance the characters feel throughout the movie. refinery29.com, "Sorry To Bother You," 6 July 2018

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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Last Updated

12 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for dissonance

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

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More Definitions for dissonance


dis·​so·​nance | \ˈdi-sə-nəns \

Kids Definition of dissonance

: an unpleasant combination of musical sounds


dis·​so·​nance | \ˈdis-ə-nən(t)s \

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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Comments on dissonance

What made you want to look up dissonance? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to express warning or disapproval

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