in·​flec·​tion in-ˈflek-shən How to pronounce inflection (audio)
: change in pitch or loudness of the voice
: the change of form that words undergo to mark such distinctions as those of case, gender, number, tense, person, mood, or voice
: a form, suffix, or element involved in such variation
: the act or result of curving or bending : bend
: change in curvature of an arc or curve from concave to convex or conversely

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Changing the pitch, tone, or loudness of our words are ways we communicate meaning in speech, though not on the printed page. A rising inflection at the end of a sentence generally indicates a question, and a falling inflection indicates a statement, for example. Another way of inflecting words is by adding endings: -s to make a noun plural, -ed to put a verb in the past tense, -er to form the comparative form of an adjective, and so on.

Examples of inflection in a Sentence

She spoke with no inflection. She read the lines with an upward inflection. Most English adjectives do not require inflection. “Gone” and “went” are inflections of the verb “go.” English has fewer inflections than many other languages.
Recent Examples on the Web Neutral inflection results in a robotic, monotonous way of speaking, while upward inflection can make every sentence sound like a question. Philip Ellis, Men's Health, 29 Aug. 2023 Southerners know that the phrase's purpose depends on the tone in which it's spoken, and a slight change in inflection or volume can make all the difference. Southern Living Editors, Southern Living, 28 Aug. 2023 Eventually, researchers hope, people who have lost speech may converse in real time through computerized pictures of themselves that convey tone, inflection and emotions like joy and anger. Pam Belluck, New York Times, 23 Aug. 2023 The rhythms, the tics, the inflections are simply not the same. Will Stephenson, Harper's Magazine, 16 Aug. 2023 Think sporting frizzy hair or invoking a heavy New York accent and Yiddish inflection. David Oliver, USA TODAY, 17 Aug. 2023 Kevin Sylvester, a sports broadcaster of more than 25 years, whose work includes PGA Tour golf coverage and hosting for WGRZ, an NBC affiliate, said the Masters’ AI lacked commentary techniques such as the inflection of the voice to keep audiences engaged with the game. Khadijah Khogeer, NBC News, 29 July 2023 Photo-illustration: WIRED Staff; Getty Images Only a few months ago, AI content was easy to spot: unnatural inflections in speech, weird earlobes in photos, bland language in writing. WIRED, 27 July 2023 Packed with her trademark soulful belts and emotive vocal inflections, Lizzo’s rendition of the beloved track drew affirmations and applause from the room of onlookers. Kyle Denis, Billboard, 19 July 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'inflection.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1531, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of inflection was in 1531

Dictionary Entries Near inflection

Cite this Entry

“Inflection.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


in·​flec·​tion in-ˈflek-shən How to pronounce inflection (audio)
: a change in the pitch or tone of a person's voice
: the change in the form of a word showing its case, gender, number, person, tense, mood, voice, or comparison

Medical Definition


variants or chiefly British inflexion
: the act or result of curving or bending

More from Merriam-Webster on inflection

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