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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Physiologically, this process of dissonance, reflection and dialogue (even internally) encourages openness and can change the neural structure of our brain and move us up the staircase toward awareness. David Hessekiel, Forbes, "How Employee Volunteering Can Foster Equity And Empathy In The Workplace," 20 Apr. 2021 Not many know what to expect, save for the dissonance of glitz and glamour against the backdrop of a nation decimated by illness and economic downturn. Sonia Rao, Washington Post, "Why do the Oscars matter?," 16 Apr. 2021 Viewed through the lens of the past few weeks, the dissonance of that show is striking: StartUp painted a consistently breezy picture of the office, one that was unnaturally transparent and empathetic. Nicholas Quah, Vulture, "What Went Wrong at Gimlet?," 10 Mar. 2021 The dissonance between this narrative and the obvious, but perhaps legally unprovable, truth should ring loudly in the public mind. Jacob Silverman, The New Republic, "Leon Black and the American Tradition of Impunity," 26 Jan. 2021 The quavering vocal inflections of punk and the dissonance of industrial metal are common in the rap and new electronic-pop styles surging on TikTok. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Miley Cyrus Has Always Been Rock-and-Roll," 3 Dec. 2020 Such dissonance between the perception and reality of an employee’s own mental health speaks volumes about the importance of awareness and education about mental health, and especially mood disorders, in the workplace. Garen Staglin, Forbes, "Shedding Light On Mood Disorders In The Workplace," 20 Apr. 2021 Cognitive dissonance is built into a work that saves some of its prettiest melodies for the most murderous maniacs. Los Angeles Times, "Stephen Sondheim & John Weidman’s ‘Assassins’ gathers a killer roster of performers," 16 Apr. 2021 There’s dissonance; the celebration is muted, reticent, almost secretive. New York Times, "400 Days Later, the New York Philharmonic Returns," 15 Apr. 2021

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.

See More

First Known Use of dissonance

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

History and Etymology for dissonance

see dissonant

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about dissonance

Time Traveler for dissonance

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for dissonance

Last Updated

6 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Dissonance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dissonance. Accessed 6 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu jedi training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Anagram puzzles meet word search.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!