in·to·na·tion | \ˌin-tə-ˈnā-shən, -(ˌ)tō-\

Definition of intonation 

1 : something that is intoned specifically : the opening tones of a Gregorian chant

2 : the act of intoning and especially of chanting

3 : the ability to play or sing notes in tune

4 : manner of utterance specifically : the rise and fall in pitch of the voice in speech

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Other Words from intonation

intonational \ˌin-tə-ˈnā-shnəl, -shə-nᵊl, -(ˌ)tō- \ adjective

Examples of intonation in a Sentence

identical sentences, differing only in intonation

Recent Examples on the Web

The casual attitude can sometimes combine with the occasional intonation glitch and come across as annoyed, tired, disinterested, or sarcastic. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, "Talking to Google Duplex: Google’s human-like phone AI feels revolutionary," 27 June 2018 Also uneven in intonation, but far more delicious in effect, is a third mezzo, Stephanie Blythe, as the wicked stepmother, the imperious Madame de la Haltière. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, "Review: The Stepchild of Cinderella Operas Finally Makes It to the Met," 13 Apr. 2018 Mann has thought through every facial gesture, every deep dark vocal intonation. Christopher Arnott,, "Terrence Mann Kills It As 'Sweeney Todd' At CT Rep," 26 June 2018 To the dramatic, almost song-like intonations of the nation’s most famous newscaster, the program depicted Kim as statesmanlike beyond his years, confident and polite, quick to smile and firmly in control. Washington Post, "After summit, North Korea shows Trump in new light," 14 June 2018 The intonation of each letter or number is all over the place, never flowing with normal beginning and ending tones that a human would use. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, "Talking to Google Duplex: Google’s human-like phone AI feels revolutionary," 27 June 2018 Such therapy, known as melodic intonation treatment, was used to help Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords recover her speech after she was shot in the head. Robert Mccoppin,, "Music Can Call Back Loved Ones Lost In Alzheimer's Darkness," 22 June 2018 What: Campers receive classical repertoire instruction twice a day, particularly on breathing techniques, vowel formation, choral tone, sight singing, intonation and music theory. Mónica Marie Zorilla,, "45 affordable summer camps for kids," 5 June 2018 The brass encountered a bit of raggedness, the woodwinds a touch of sour intonation, but things got tighter quickly. Tim Smith,, "BSO shines in colorful program with Alsop, Gerstein," 2 June 2018

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.

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First Known Use of intonation

1620, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Last Updated

24 Aug 2018

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The first known use of intonation was in 1620

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More Definitions for intonation



English Language Learners Definition of intonation

: the rise and fall in the sound of your voice when you speak


in·to·na·tion | \ˌin-tə-ˈnā-shən \

Kids Definition of intonation

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

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Comments on intonation

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


a state of commotion or excitement

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