non·​ton·​al ˌnän-ˈtō-nᵊl How to pronounce nontonal (audio)
: not tonal: such as
music : not having or based in a particular key : atonal
nontonal music
linguistics : not using pitch to express differences of meaning between words
nontonal languages

Examples of nontonal in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web This articulation of speech within a whistle only works for nontonal languages, where the pitch of speech sounds isn’t crucial to the meaning of the word. Bob Holmes, Smithsonian Magazine, 24 Aug. 2021 Overall, only one in 30 complex tonal languages flourished in dry areas; one in three nontonal languages cropped up in those same regions. Sarah Lewin Frasier, Scientific American, 1 Apr. 2015

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

1922, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of nontonal was in 1922

Dictionary Entries Near nontonal

Cite this Entry

“Nontonal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2024.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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