over·tone | \ˈō-vər-ˌtōn \

Definition of overtone 

1a : one of the higher tones produced simultaneously with the fundamental and that with the fundamental comprise a complex musical tone : harmonic sense 1a

b : harmonic sense 2

2 : the color of the light reflected (as by a paint)

3 : a secondary effect, quality, or meaning : suggestion, connotation

Examples of overtone in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Just as there was during Hollywood's awards season, there was a somber overtone to the celebrations. Jill Lawless, USA TODAY, "'Hamilton' takes 7 prizes at Britain's Olivier Awards," 8 Apr. 2018 Arriving guests are received in the Great Hall, another double-height room with ecclesiastical overtones. Jo Rodgers, Vogue, "Old World Meets New at Adare Manor, Ireland’s Just-Renovated Castle Hotel," 4 Apr. 2018 McAdams, who continues through his suspension to blog as Marquette Warrior, has not shied away from criticizing his employer over campus matters with political overtones. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin Supreme Court sides with Marquette professor John McAdams in free speech case, orders university to reinstate him," 6 July 2018 The generational split among Democrats has ideological and racial overtones: The millennial generation as a group is more ethnically diverse and liberal than its elders. Janet Hook, WSJ, "Upset of Joseph Crowley Sends a Message to House Democrats’ Aging White Leaders," 27 June 2018 Others have noted that Orban’s attack on Soros, who is Jewish, has had anti-Semitic overtones. Zoltan Simon, Bloomberg.com, "Why Hungary and Poland Rattle Europe's Liberal Order: QuickTake," 1 June 2018 The fight between their tech champions in other markets will inevitably have political overtones. The Economist, "America’s tech giants vie with China’s in third countries," 5 July 2018 Upgrades such as 20-inch wheels and an M40i-specific body kit (badging and chrome accents) add handsome but modest overtones. Bloomberg, latimes.com, "BMW’s modest X3 crossover should be one of its brightest stars," 9 June 2018 Janie Treeborne, keeper of the Peach Pit orchard, introduces us to the town of Elberta, Ala., and the Treeborne family, in a tale that’s full of eccentricity, Southern Gothic overtones, and poetry. John Timpane, Philly.com, "A summer made of stories: Great books for warmer days," 2 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'overtone.' 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 overtone

1867, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Statistics for overtone

Last Updated

28 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for overtone

The first known use of overtone was in 1867

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More Definitions for overtone



English Language Learners Definition of overtone

: an idea or quality that is suggested without being said directly

: a very small amount of something

music : a higher tone that is part of the sound of a musical note


over·tone | \ˈō-vər-ˌtōn \

Medical Definition of overtone 

: one of the higher tones produced simultaneously with the fundamental and that with the fundamental comprise a complex musical tone

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Comments on overtone

What made you want to look up overtone? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to reject or criticize sharply

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