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

Examples of intonation in a Sentence

identical sentences, differing only in intonation

Recent Examples on the Web

The inconstant, tympanic thrumming of the fabric is an intonation underlying one shrieking run after another of banshee notes, some of them single tones within the squalling wind that sustain themselves for several seconds before dropping an octave. Barry Lopez, Harper's magazine, "Polar Light," 10 Jan. 2019 On a Strat-style bridge, the intonation of each string can be adjusted individually. Henry Robertson, Popular Mechanics, "How to Set Up a Guitar And Make It Your Own," 7 Dec. 2018 Mencken set out to describe and account for the differences, obvious and subtle, between English and American vocabulary, pronunciation, syntax, intonation, idiom, grammar, slang, euphemism and much more. Joseph Epstein, WSJ, "We All Speak American," 10 Aug. 2018 That forced them to spend several weeks before and during rehearsals getting all aboard to pronounce the Yiddish words correctly, with intonations that capture that lost world’s context and flavor. Joseph Berger, New York Times, "How Do You Say ‘Tradition’ in Yiddish?," 11 July 2018 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

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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Statistics for intonation

Last Updated

15 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for intonation

The first known use of intonation was in 1620

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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 How to pronounce intonation (audio) \

Kids Definition of intonation

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on intonation

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with intonation

Spanish Central: Translation of intonation

Nglish: Translation of intonation for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of intonation for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about intonation

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).


incapable of being surmounted or overcome

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