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

Definition of polyphonic

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

Other Words from polyphonic

polyphonically \ ˌpä-​lē-​ˈfä-​ni-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce polyphonic (audio) \ or polyphonously adverb

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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 Instead, Smith offers an idea in a contemplative way: a polyphonic passage, a drone or a melody that starts, pauses and repeats with a slight but crucial change. New York Times, 13 July 2022 In the late 1980s, under Mikhail Gorbachev, Russia developed a vital, polyphonic media, heading into the waning days of Soviet communism. Kenneth Rapoza, Forbes, 12 July 2022 Speaking of hooning, the GV60’s Active Sound Design (noise-canceling system) offers drivers the choice of three polyphonic soundscapes to fill the sensory void left by combustion engines. Dan Neil, WSJ, 17 June 2022 From colonial-era photo albums to visual reveries, social documentary and conceptual approaches to photography, the exhibitions explore the polyphonic ways in which photographs are produced, circulated and interpreted. Vogue, 27 Apr. 2022 In all her essays, Kahanoff looked for a place to call home, where her polyphonic identity would find peace and where the East and the West would have a fertile conversation. New York Times, 16 Apr. 2022 And while the language may be at risk for extinction, its polyphonic hymns have preserved it in amber. Melanie Hamilton, CNN, 16 Dec. 2021 Set in the future amid a pandemic far worse than our own, this polyphonic novel reflects our human desire to find meaning within tragedy. Amy Brady, Scientific American, 16 Dec. 2021 Above all, these projects are collaborative, emerging from a polyphonic exchange of ideas. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 15 Nov. 2021 See More

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.

First Known Use of polyphonic

1776, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of polyphonic was in 1776

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polyphonic prose

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Last Updated

17 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Polyphonic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polyphonic. Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

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