over·​tone | \ ˈō-vər-ˌtōn How to pronounce overtone (audio) \

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
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 The same can be said for chimichurri wings that accented the flames with herbal overtones of cilantro. Mike Sutter, ExpressNews.com, "Review: Cullum’s Attagirl a chicken dive with the heart of a craft-driven cafe on San Antonio’s St. Mary’s strip," 27 Feb. 2020 The disorder has a long history of diagnoses that ring with overtones of accusation. Eric Boodman, STAT, "The vodka trial: In search of a treatment for vocal disorders, a researcher puts patient anecdotes to the test," 10 Feb. 2020 For many of that generation, such a roundup carries chilling historical overtones, and in some cases personal ones as well. Noga Tarnopolsky, Los Angeles Times, "Ultra-Orthodox Jews hit disproportionately hard by Israel’s coronavirus outbreak," 7 Apr. 2020 The introduction of valves in horns and trumpets meant that instruments that had previously been limited to notes of the overtone series could now roam across the whole chromatic spectrum, adding oomph wherever a composer desired it. New York Times, "Loud, Louder, Loudest: How Classical Music Started to Roar," 17 Apr. 2020 For instance, the Levin family's attempt at moving to a better neighborhood takes on the same horror overtones as 2018's Get Out when the family car turns the corner and finds a German-style beer garden with Nazi-looking types eyeballing them. Ani Bundel, Ars Technica, "Plot Against America: HBO’s alternate-history series is too stuck on the present," 17 Mar. 2020 Denying that California has done anything wrong, Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom alluded to the political overtones of the announcement and the Trump administration’s ongoing feud with the state over numerous issues. David Nakamura, BostonGlobe.com, "Trump headlines annual March for Life rally in Washington," 24 Jan. 2020 Where her third-person narration drifts above the action, the Hulu version heightens the melancholic tone to melodramatic proportions, twisting storylines like one involving Lexie’s college essay until their racial overtones become glaring. Judy Berman, Time, "Little Fires Everywhere," 11 Mar. 2020 Senet boards may have begun to take on religious overtones at least 400 years earlier, according to ancient Egyptian texts. Colin Barras, Science | AAAS, "Is this the original board game of death?," 6 Feb. 2020

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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Time Traveler for overtone

Time Traveler

The first known use of overtone was in 1867

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Statistics for overtone

Last Updated

24 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Overtone.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/overtone. Accessed 6 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for overtone


How to pronounce overtone (audio)

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 How to pronounce overtone (audio) \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on overtone

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for overtone

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with overtone

Spanish Central: Translation of overtone

Nglish: Translation of overtone for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about overtone

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