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 On the program were selections from the Peterhouse partbooks, a treasure trove of pre-Reformation polyphonic vocal music that at the time was virtually unknown. BostonGlobe.com, "Blue Heron marks two decades of bringing early vocal music to life - The Boston Globe," 25 Oct. 2019 The polyphonic narrative that ensues has the pacing and urgency of a spy thriller but the middling stakes of a book about a group of privileged kids sending each other cryptic texts. Rebekah Frumkin, Washington Post, "Can a thriller also be a feminist social critique? Lisa Lutz gives it a try in ‘The Swallows’," 6 Sep. 2019 For the last few days, my social-media feeds—which, most of the time, read like bleak, polyphonic litanies of the falling-apart world—have been overwhelmed instead by discourse about the sandwich. Helen Rosner, The New Yorker, "The Popeyes Chicken Sandwich Is Here to Save America," 20 Aug. 2019 Start with indigenous traditions such as epic poetry and polyphonic singing; then factor in the ability of Georgians to master cultural forms born elsewhere, including theatre and classical music. The Economist, "A culture clash in the Caucasus," 29 Aug. 2019 Some used polyphonic overtone singing, a technique that creates the aura of a single voice simultaneously producing multiple tones. Patrick Rucker, Washington Post, "A smorgasbord of singers delivers a timely serenade," 9 July 2019 Painted in vivid blue with a red interior, Zubrzycki’s gracefully crafted viola organista combines the polyphonic capacity of a keyboard—allowing it to play multiple melodies at once—with the sensitivity and emotive range of strings. Claudia Kalb, National Geographic, "Why Leonardo da Vinci’s brilliance endures, 500 years after his death," 12 June 2019 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

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

12 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for polyphonic

The first known use of polyphonic was in 1776

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concealed or difficult to comprehend

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