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

Keep scrolling for more

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

And how about the perfect intonation and clear articulation of contrabassist Timothy Cobb? San Diego Union-Tribune, "At SummerFest, a new place and new faces add up to great news," 5 Aug. 2019 This was the most polished performance of the day, with good intonation and disciplined ensemble work from the orchestra. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Review: Rare works shine in La Jolla Symphony & Chorus’ season-closing concert," 11 June 2019 The Master Chorale, under the direction of John K. Russell, sang with good ensemble and fine intonation. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Review: Mainly Mozart thrills with a rare Mozart cantata and a well-known violinist," 16 June 2019 The other 93%, el Kaliouby says, consists of vocal intonations, expression, and body language. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, "How Facial Recognition Will Change Driving," 11 June 2019 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

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.

See More

First Known Use of intonation

1620, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about intonation

Statistics for intonation

Last Updated

10 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for intonation

The first known use of intonation was in 1620

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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 How to pronounce intonation (audio) \

Kids Definition of intonation

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


not constant or steady

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Summer 2019 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a-bowl-of-peach-sorbet-with-cut-peaches-next-to-it
  • Which is a synonym of desideratum?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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