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
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

Steinberg responded by stating that his proposal didn't have racial overtones, since crime affects people of all backgrounds. John Greenfield, Chicago Reader, "Putting the neighborhood watch on watch," 18 Jan. 2018 And their rivalry, complete with class overtones, is more than a century old. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "South America’s Soccer Final Postponed for Second Time," 25 Nov. 2018 Many cultivars are available with different nuances of taste, size, and appearance, including cultivars with cinnamon, clove, lemon, and lime overtones, as well as purple-leaved types such as Dark Opal and Red Rubin. The Editors, Good Housekeeping, "How to Grow Basil for Your Best Pesto Yet," 20 Aug. 2018 Locked in a tight struggle rocked by racial overtones and charges of voter suppression, Georgia’s Stacey Abrams is vowing to fight for every vote in her quest to become the nation’s first African American female governor. Celeste Katz, Glamour, "Democrats Won Back the House—They Have Women to Thank for That," 7 Nov. 2018 Not all the contracts had strictly political overtones. Richard Lardner, The Seattle Times, "Saudis have a $6 million lobbying payroll despite departures," 16 Oct. 2018 The photos in his post suggest an unjustified racial overtone that is highly offensive. Ryan Gaydos, Fox News, "Namesake of University of Mississippi's journalism school under fire over 'offensive' Facebook post," 21 Sep. 2018 Tuerkheimer said Van Dyke’s legal team also can’t overlook the inescapable racial overtones of the case while weighing a jury or bench trial. Megan Crepeau, chicagotribune.com, "Key decision awaits Officer Van Dyke as judge pushes for summer trial: Bench or jury?," 27 June 2018 But the racial overtones in a campaign between a historic black Democratic nominee and a Trump-loving Republican have become unavoidable. Dylan Scott, Vox, "How racist robocalls and an FBI inquiry are shaking up the Florida governor’s race," 7 Nov. 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.

See More

First Known Use of overtone

1867, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about overtone

Dictionary Entries near overtone








Statistics for overtone

Last Updated

19 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for overtone

The first known use of overtone was in 1867

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on 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

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 gather or build up little by little

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three-bears-two-of-them-look-like-theyre-whispering-to-a-third-bear-who-looks-chuffed-to-be-the-center-of-attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!