per·cus·sion | \pər-ˈkə-shən \

Definition of percussion 

1 : the act of percussing: such as

a : the striking of a percussion cap so as to set off the charge in a firearm

b : the beating or striking of a musical instrument

c : the act or technique of tapping the surface of a body part to learn the condition of the parts beneath by the resultant sound

2 : the striking of sound on the ear

3 : percussion instruments that form a section of a band or orchestra

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from percussion

percussion adjective

Examples of percussion in a Sentence

He plays percussion for the band. The marimba is a percussion instrument.

Recent Examples on the Web

Attired in white dresses, the singers proceeded in shifting formations from one end of the tunnel to the other, emitting ethereal timbres, playing chiming percussion, and scraping rocks against the walls. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "The Sonic Fury of the Ojai Music Festival," 24 June 2018 Eric Betts, drums and percussion, and Aaron Jellish, guitar, joined in 2010. Hannah Kirby, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Suburban Milwaukee band The Cheap Shots celebrates 10 year anniversary at Wednesday Night Live July 11," 28 June 2018 The groove, the energy, the horns, the sound of people cheering, the Latin percussion? Ed Masley, azcentral, "Best World Cup songs of all time, from Ricky Martin and Shakira to 'Three Lions'," 27 June 2018 Unique Derique Comedy, body percussion. 11 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Fri., June 29., "Kids listings," 22 June 2018 Flint knapping is the production of stone tools with sharp edges created by percussion and pressure. Courant Community, "Community News For The Windham Edition," 15 May 2018 Yet there are similarities to Middle Eastern dancing partly because of the instruments used, which include stringed instruments such as the oud and kanun, the violin-like kemenche and various modes of percussion. Roger Catlin, Smithsonian, "How Armenian Dance Adapted Over Time and Place," 26 June 2018 Despite the anguish in its messages, the infectious percussion and booming guitar twangs offer community, love, even dancing as an answer to the status quo. Eve Barlow, GQ, "Parquet Courts Are Here to Thrash," 7 May 2018 For the film's villain, Botha (Roland Moller), Jablonsky came up with a unique percussion rhythm by running a tom-tom through several distortion pedals and a compressor. Byron Burton, The Hollywood Reporter, "Why 'Skyscraper' Composer Didn't Want a Marvel-Style Score," 12 July 2018

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for percussion

Middle English, from Anglo-French percussioun, from Latin percussion-, percussio, from percutere to beat, from per- thoroughly + quatere to shake

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about percussion

Share percussion

Phrases Related to percussion

on percussion

percussion section

Statistics for percussion

Last Updated

11 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for percussion

The first known use of percussion was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for percussion



English Language Learners Definition of percussion

: musical instruments (such as drums, cymbals, or xylophones) that you play by hitting or shaking


per·cus·sion | \pər-ˈkə-shən \

Kids Definition of percussion

: the musical instruments (as drums, cymbals, and maracas) that are played by striking or shaking

Other Words from percussion

percussion adjective


per·cus·sion | \pər-ˈkəsh-ən \

Medical Definition of percussion 

1 : the act or technique of tapping the surface of a body part to learn the condition of the parts beneath by the resulting sound

2 : massage consisting of the striking of a body part with light rapid blows

called also tapotement

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on percussion

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


a state of commotion or excitement

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

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!