in·​to·​na·​tion ˌin-tə-ˈnā-shən How to pronounce intonation (audio)
: manner of utterance
specifically : the rise and fall in pitch of the voice in speech
: something that is intoned
specifically : the opening tones of a Gregorian chant
: the act of intoning and especially of chanting
: the ability to play or sing notes in tune
intonational adjective

Examples of intonation in a Sentence

identical sentences, differing only in intonation
Recent Examples on the Web His voice slippery like a lizard, the actor makes every intonation clear and meaningful yet also full of mockery, playing the character while also making fun of him. Murtada Elfadl, Variety, 27 Jan. 2024 Haas had forged an original voice using microtonal materials, or intervals smaller than the minor second, the smallest distance between two notes in standard Western intonation. Jeffrey Arlo Brown, New York Times, 17 Jan. 2024 There’s still this deep belief that outward signals, facial expressions, the way our body moves, the intonation of our voices, carries the essence of ourselves. Caitlin Harrington, WIRED, 2 Jan. 2024 Everything from the lip-syncing to the intonations to subtle gestures and body movements of these Channel 1 anchors gives an eerily convincing presentation of a real newscaster talking into the camera. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, 15 Dec. 2023 In her kitchen now, as grave intonations about the state of democracy spilled from the mouths of people on CNN and into the Orvis home, Verna trained her attention to the state of dinner. Melina Mara, Washington Post, 9 Dec. 2023 Three short words, delivered in Stone’s supine posture and wry intonation, convey centuries of gender dynamics. Sonia Rao, Washington Post, 23 Dec. 2023 While continuing to experiment with synthesizers, drones, and just intonation, an alternative to standard Western tuning, Hennix also composed poetry, drama, and equations. Hattie Lindert, Pitchfork, 26 Nov. 2023 Maestro True Story: All About Leonard Bernstein, Who Bradley Cooper Plays, and His Complicated Love Life For Cooper's voice to mimic Bernstein's more nasal-sounding one, Hiro constructed a nose plug the actor wore that changed his intonations and nose shape. Nigel Smith, Peoplemag, 23 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'intonation.' 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

1620, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of intonation was in 1620

Dictionary Entries Near intonation

Cite this Entry

“Intonation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


in·​to·​na·​tion ˌin-tə-ˈnā-shən How to pronounce intonation (audio)
: the act of intoning
also : something intoned
: the ability to play or sing music in tune
: the rise and fall in pitch of the voice in speech
-shnəl How to pronounce intonation (audio)
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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