in·​to·​na·​tion | \ ˌin-tə-ˈnā-shən How to pronounce intonation (audio) , -(ˌ)tō- \

Definition of intonation

1 : manner of utterance specifically : the rise and fall in pitch of the voice in speech
2 : something that is intoned specifically : the opening tones of a Gregorian chant
3 : the act of intoning and especially of chanting
4 : the ability to play or sing notes in tune

Other Words from intonation

intonational \ ˌin-​tə-​ˈnā-​shnəl How to pronounce intonation (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl , -​(ˌ)tō-​ \ adjective

Examples of intonation in a Sentence

identical sentences, differing only in intonation
Recent Examples on the Web The Washington Concert Opera Orchestra was in largely fine form, despite some persistent intonation issues in the strings through the first act. Washington Post, 25 Apr. 2022 Emilio chimes in, his accent still rich with the rhythmic intonation of Cuba. Brooke Mazurek, Variety, 5 Apr. 2022 Taylor’s presence seemed to authorize a slight relaxation of intonation across the ensemble — here a slight strain between the two violins, there a measure of scruff to the French horn. Washington Post, 21 Apr. 2022 Most of the videos are presented by students with the piercings, intonation, and hair colors of the everyday campus crusader. Aron Ravin, National Review, 3 Apr. 2022 Fluidity of gesture, intonation and blocking allow for greater dramatic velocity. Los Angeles Times, 1 Mar. 2022 His technique and intonation however were impeccable in a satisfying performance. Christian Hertzog, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 Mar. 2022 The result is a flat, almost robotic recapitulation of observations and events, narrating a vivid stream of footage from his life and career without emotion or intonation. Daniel D'addario, Variety, 8 Mar. 2022 Past studies have shown that roughly 50% of human communication is based upon physical body language and 40% is based on the tone and intonation of spoken words – not the words themselves. Mark Settle, Forbes, 25 Jan. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of intonation

1620, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Learn More About intonation

Time Traveler for intonation

Time Traveler

The first known use of intonation was in 1620

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near intonation



intonation pattern

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for intonation

Last Updated

16 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Intonation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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

More Definitions for intonation


in·​to·​na·​tion | \ ˌin-tə-ˈnā-shən How to pronounce intonation (audio) \

Kids Definition of intonation

: the rise and fall in pitch of the voice in speech


Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Color

  • a light greenish blue color
  • Name that color:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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