po·​lyph·​o·​ny pə-ˈli-fə-nē How to pronounce polyphony (audio)
: a style of musical composition employing two or more simultaneous but relatively independent melodic lines : counterpoint

Examples of polyphony in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The book, the story of Seymour, an ambitious would-be filmmaker and a second-rate husband, explores different temporalities, creating a polyphony of the sweeping, legato past and the rhythmic present. Sam Thielman, The New Yorker, 21 July 2023 Every new turn led to discoveries, capturing alternate angles of sculptures, inhaling the surprising scent of heirloom tomato leaves, observing the habits of donkeys, chickens, and sheep, and permitting myself to drift within a polyphony of chronotypes. Natasha Gural, Forbes, 3 Aug. 2022 Over that electronic polyphony, accompanists on period instruments, including the theorbo (a long-necked lute), improvised sometimes plangent, sometimes dissonant improvisations. Jason Farago, New York Times, 21 Mar. 2023 Movements of the Victoria Requiem actually begin with quotations of the relevant plainsong melodies, and the final Responsorium alternates plainsong lines with polyphony. Dallas News, 26 Apr. 2022 Dialogue, although sparingly used, is rendered in a fantastic polyphony of English, German, Kiswahili, and Arabic. Siddhartha Deb, The New Republic, 26 Oct. 2022 Soon the others start to sing, too, their voices overlapping to create a rapturous polyphony. Carolina Schneider Comandulli, Scientific American, 23 Apr. 2022 The Master Chorale and the cellist Cécilia Tsan nimbly negotiated the score’s Hindustani gestures, which were seamlessly woven into a four-part texture modelled on Renaissance polyphony. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 11 Apr. 2022 In this oral history, Alexievich brings forth a polyphony of voices from one of the most radical social-engineering experiments ever carried out. Marci Shore, The Atlantic, 11 Mar. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'polyphony.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Greek polyphōnia variety of tones, from polyphōnos having many tones or voices, from poly- + phōnē voice — more at ban entry 1

First Known Use

1790, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of polyphony was in 1790

Dictionary Entries Near polyphony

Cite this Entry

“Polyphony.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/polyphony. Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


po·​lyph·​o·​ny pə-ˈlif-ə-nē How to pronounce polyphony (audio)
: music consisting of two or more independent but harmonious melodies

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