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

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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

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Until very recently, the slider phone was a thing of the past, consigned to the annals of history along with polyphonic ringtones and BlackBerry’s scroll wheel. Jon Porter, The Verge, "Lenovo’s Z5 Pro is a cheaper take on the slider phone trend," 1 Nov. 2018 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

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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Last Updated

10 Dec 2018

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The first known use of polyphonic was in 1776

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