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

His debut feature film, Brick (2005), was a crime drama with film noir overtones, largely inspired by the works of Dashiell Hammett and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Rian Johnson trades in lightsabers for postmodern whodunnit Knives Out," 2 July 2019 But the hiring process quickly took on racial overtones when Singh criticized the quality of the talent pool in Camden, which is largely black, Latino and Asian. Susan Schmidt, ProPublica, "Meet the Congressman Defending Questionable Tax Breaks for a Company Connected to His Rich Brother," 2 July 2019 Uber and Lyft have overtones of the wacky days of the dot-com bubble, when sketchy business plans and big losses were an active selling point. James Mackintosh, WSJ, "Uber Has Poisoned an IPO Market That Was Sick Anyway," 14 May 2019 But on Tuesday, the blatantly racist overtones of Barr's tweet targeting Obama White House adviser Valerie Jarrett were undeniable. Andrea Mandell, USA TODAY, "Inside Roseanne Barr’s history of offensive tweets," 29 May 2018 Listeners scared off by such a move will miss its overtones, which radiate gradually like a rising sun’s auras. Larry Blumenfeld, WSJ, "‘Igbó Alákorin (The Singer’s Grove), Vol. I & II’ by David Virelles and ‘Pillars’ by Tyshawn Sorey Reviews," 29 Oct. 2018 The issue has political, social and geographical overtones. Fox News, "Romanian or Russian? A geopolitical issue in Moldova," 27 Aug. 2018 Spruce is a stiff, light-weight, bright sounding wood with complex harmonic overtones and robust sound projection. Henry Robertson, Popular Mechanics, "Fender's 'Acoustasonic' Is a True Acoustic-Electric Hybrid Guitar," 22 Jan. 2019 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

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

20 Jul 2019

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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 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

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).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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