poly·phon·ic | \ˌpä-lē-ˈfä-nik \
variants: or polyphonous \pə-ˈli-fə-nəs \

Definition of polyphonic 

1 : of, relating to, or marked by polyphony

2 : being a polyphone

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from polyphonic

polyphonically \ˌpä-lē-ˈfä-ni-k(ə-)lē \ or polyphonously adverb

Did You Know?

Since poly- means "many", polyphonic music has "many voices". In polyphony, each part has its own melody, and they weave together in a web that may become very dense; a famous piece by Thomas Tallis, composed around 1570, has 40 separate voice parts. Polyphony reached its height during the 16th century with Italian madrigals and the sacred music of such composers as Tallis, Palestrina, and Byrd. Usually when we speak of polyphony we're talking about music of Bach's time and earlier; but the principles remain the same today, and songwriters such as the Beatles have sometimes used polyphony as well.

Examples of polyphonic in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

When combined with other musical elements (e.g., dancing, chanting, whistling, conch shell playing, etc.), the music has a polyphonic texture (many independent voices or instruments). Smithsonian, "Andean Solstice Celebrations Capture the Wondrous Churn of Spacetime," 22 June 2018 The director complicates the scenario by making the boxer fall in lover with the ballerina as well, creating a polyphonic romantic melodrama. Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader, "Film / Foreign Discover the work of noted Japanese genre director Umetsugu Inoue," 30 May 2018 The beguiling psychedelia of these polyphonic Parisians has percolated through France’s music scene since their debut album in 2013. Efrain Dorado, RedEye Chicago, "5 must-see concerts in Chicago this week: Ratboys, Julien Baker, Girlpool," 17 Oct. 2017 The computer scientist had a rich baritone voice and relished the challenge of singing a cappella versions of polyphonic songs by Renaissance composers including Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. James R. Hagerty, WSJ, "Burton Smith Lost a Supercomputing Race but Won Respect and Influence," 13 Apr. 2018 The dissonance between the notes in their traditional polyphonic arrangement jars with the measured, uniform stream of figures marching along the wall, which might be hypnotic, almost soothing, if not for the voices in the room. Vogue, "At the Tate Modern, Optimism Grows Underground," 12 Jan. 2018 There's a polyphonic effect: the characters are always trying to speak over each other, interjecting some personal insight or grievance before their conversation partners have a chance to complete their own thoughts. Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader, "Comedy / Film Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories makes music out of humor and pain," 17 Oct. 2017 The score is stunning in its variety, in both solo and polyphonic writing. James R. Oestreich, New York Times, "Singing ‘Happy 450th Birthday’ to Monteverdi," 5 May 2017 Those include their ancient polyphonic singing, recently recognized on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list. National Geographic, "A Fairytale Kingdom Faces Real-Life Troubles," 11 Nov. 2016

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

1776, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about polyphonic

Share polyphonic

Statistics for polyphonic

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for polyphonic

The first known use of polyphonic was in 1776

See more words from the same year

More from Merriam-Webster on polyphonic

See words that rhyme with polyphonic

Comments on polyphonic

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


lying above or upon

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?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!