adjective or adverb

: varying in pitch from the proper tone of a melody

Examples of off-key in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Millions of viewers have watched Ballinger’s portrayal of the overconfident, judgmental performer who sings off-key covers and complains about her creepy uncle. Samantha Chery, Washington Post, 12 July 2023 The Republican crowd, notably, did not applaud that off-key remark, which came only months after Ms. Reynolds had romped to re-election, carrying 95 of the state’s 99 counties. Maggie Haberman, New York Times, 8 July 2023 The video shows Ballinger, who is known for her satirical online persona, Miranda Sings, in a black leotard singing off-key to the song while awkwardly dancing barefoot onstage with two backup singers. Saba Hamedy, NBC News, 6 July 2023 The Mother Superior is dubious about Deloris but eventually enlists her to train the convent’s comically off-key choir. Don Aucoin,, 10 Apr. 2023

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

1901, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of off-key was in 1901

Dictionary Entries Near off-key

Cite this Entry

“Off-key.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


adjective or adverb
: above or below the proper tone of a melody
singing off-key

More from Merriam-Webster on off-key

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