poly·​phon·​ic | \ ˌpä-lē-ˈfä-nik How to pronounce polyphonic (audio) \
variants: or polyphonous \ pə-​ˈli-​fə-​nəs How to pronounce polyphonous (audio) \

Definition of polyphonic

1 : of, relating to, or marked by polyphony
2 : being a polyphone

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Other Words from polyphonic

polyphonically \ ˌpä-​lē-​ˈfä-​ni-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce polyphonically (audio) \ 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 Billops initially set out to document her niece Suzanne’s recovery from heroin addiction, but the film became a polyphonic account of domestic violence in a middle-class black household. Phoebe Chen, The New York Review of Books, "The Films of Women’s Liberation," 27 June 2020 While there is no singular formal style or narrative tactic, in response to racial violence, these filmmakers have crafted textured, polyphonic films that examine the social, political, and historical forces that precipitate moments of unrest. Samantha N. Sheppard, The Atlantic, "The Films That Understand Why People Riot," 9 June 2020 For a classic do-it-all polyphonic synthesizer, Behringer’s new DeepMind 12 offers massive flexibility and a plethora of unmistakable sounds that harken back to the 80’s. Popular Science, "The best vintage-inspired analog keyboards and synthesizers," 26 May 2020 The polyphonic storytelling enriches this amply populated novel, whose ambitions extend well beyond the Balkans. Ken Kalfus, New York Times, "When the Town’s Future Is an Obsolete Factory," 28 Apr. 2020 In Lance Olsen’s latest, the master of literary montage composes a kinetic, polyphonic novel of 1920s Berlin. WSJ, "What to Read This Weekend," 24 Jan. 2020 There have been multiple studies placing human singers into MRIs to monitor the mechanics at play, including showcasing polyphonic singing and how the larynx changes to produce different singing styles. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "After 3,000 years, we can hear the “voice” of a mummified Egyptian priest," 24 Jan. 2020 Luca Bruno/Associated Press What do Chinese acupuncture, Irish hurling and the polyphonic singing of the Aka Pygmies of Central Africa have in common? New York Times, "Italians Celebrate Their Coffee and Want the World to Do So, Too," 3 Dec. 2019 And by swirling together polyphonic influences with a hands-across-the-world message, the people that Coldplay’s music presumes to lift up are at risk of being reduced to a singular, suffering mass. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Coldplay Would Like to Save the World With Vagueness," 26 Nov. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of polyphonic

1776, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for polyphonic

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The first known use of polyphonic was in 1776

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Last Updated

4 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Polyphonic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polyphonic. Accessed 9 Jul. 2020.

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