\ ˈtōn How to pronounce tone (audio) \

Definition of tone

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : vocal or musical sound of a specific quality spoke in low tones masculine tones especially : musical sound with respect to timbre and manner of expression
2a : a sound of definite pitch and vibration
3 : accent or inflection expressive of a mood or emotion
4 : style or manner of expression in speaking or writing seemed wise to adopt a conciliatory tone
5 : a particular pitch or change of pitch constituting an element in the intonation of a phrase or sentence high tone low tone mid tone low-rising tone falling tone
6 : the pitch of a word often used to express differences of meaning
7a(1) : color quality or value
(2) : a tint or shade of color
b : the color that appreciably modifies a hue or white or black gray walls of greenish tone
8 : the effect in painting of light and shade together with color
9a : normal tension or responsiveness to stimuli specifically : the state of partial contraction of skeletal muscle at rest : muscular tonus
b : strength, firmness, or tautness of a part of the body (such as the muscles or skin) exercising to improve muscle tone the shape and tone of the arms
c : the state of a living body or of any of its organs or parts in which the functions are healthy and performed with due vigor
10a : general character, quality, or trend a city's upbeat tone
b : frame of mind : mood
c : healthy elasticity : resiliency


toned; toning

Definition of tone (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to soften or reduce in intensity, color, appearance, or sound : mellow often used with down tone down the bright colorsThe candidate toned down his harsh rhetoric.
2 : to impart tone to : strengthen medicine to tone up the system especially : to increase the firmness, strength, or tautness of (a part of the body) She lifted weights to tone her arms.
3 : to change the normal silver image of (something, such as a photographic print) into a colored image
4 : to give a particular intonation or inflection to
5 : intone

intransitive verb

1 : to assume a pleasing color quality or tint
2 : to blend or harmonize in color


biographical name
\ ˈtōn How to pronounce Tone (audio) \

Definition of Tone (Entry 3 of 3)

(Theobald) Wolfe 1763–1798 Irish revolutionary

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Examples of tone in a Sentence


He replied in a friendly tone. They spoke in hushed tones. Don't use that rude tone of voice with me. the low tones of an organ The speech had religious tones to it. The author's tone shows her attitude toward the subject. The professor's condescending tone irritated some students. a bright, dark, or light tone of blue the soft tones of the painting
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Those who share stories speak in barely audible tones. Washington Post, "Whispers, suspicion about Epstein on Caribbean island," 10 July 2019 Most of KKW Beauty's other products and limited edition collections have been centered around wearable neutral tones or classic looks like a red lip or smoky eye. Jenna Rosenstein, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kim Kardashian West Is Unrecognizable in Her New KKW Beauty Campaign," 8 July 2019 Featuring rapper Giriboy and produced by BTS’ Suga, the song is a groovy alt-R&B breakup track wrapped in old-school hip-hop and snapping beats, tinny snares, woozy synths and the singer’s characteristically addicting sweet tone. Tamar Herman, Billboard, "Heize Releases 'We Don't Talk Together' Feat. Giriboy & Produced by BTS' Suga: Watch Ghoulish Video," 8 July 2019 The opening music sets the tone for the broadcast and helps to attract—and keep—viewers. Michael Mccann,, "Game On: Inside the Lawsuit Against the 'Sunday Night Football' Theme Song," 6 July 2019 The music and unsettling tone of the Midsommar trailer will immediately tip you off that this isn’t a joyous film. Ariana Brockington,, "The Best New Movie Releases In July 2019, From Spider-Man To The Next Hereditary," 5 July 2019 Mysterious hooded figures trudge through cranberry bogs, a Berlin airport is abstractly mapped, and a woozy Paris blurs into gem tones and shadows., "The Ticket: What’s happening in the local arts world," 4 July 2019 The midweek showcase included goals from likely sources in Darwin Quintero’s opening tone setter and Kevin Molino’s late clincher as well as an unlikely source in defender Michael Boxall’s game winner. Andy Greder, Twin Cities, "In ‘biggest game’ yet, Minnesota United beats San Jose 3-1," 3 July 2019 Somewhere along the line during the making of The Rook, a decision seems to have been made regarding tone. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "A Supernatural Spy Story Goes Dark in The Rook," 2 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Twice now Brussels has threatened to penalise Italy for its excessive debt, and twice the government has meekly toned down its deficit plans. The Economist, "Will Matteo Salvini wreck the euro?," 11 July 2019 But while British islanders can swear freely and the gals appear to pack only thong bikinis, American broadcast standards prohibit the former, and the skin-baring will be toned down, according to Eilenberg. Andrea Mandell, USA TODAY, "Here's everything you need to know about CBS' 'Love Island,' a sexy new reality-dating show," 8 July 2019 One of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Gilberto and his peer and collaborator Antonio Carlos Jobim helped create and popularize bossa nova, a toned-down and romanticized take on Brazilian samba music. Randall Roberts,, "Appreciation: Alongside the British Invasion, a quieter one: How João Gilberto transformed global pop music," 7 July 2019 In person these days, Ms. Versace’s act is considerably toned down. Jacob Bernstein, New York Times, "Donatella Versace Has Long Been a Gay Icon. Now It’s Official.," 29 June 2019 President Donald Trump and leader Kim Jong Un have toned down hostile rhetoric, shook hands in Singapore in June 2018 and were on cordial terms even after their second summit broke down in Hanoi in February. Jon Herskovitz, Fortune, "Why the Trump-Kim Nuclear Show Is Set for Act Three," 20 June 2019 Her skin is even-toned, hinting at a base layer of foundation, and her lips are unnaturally rosy (at least for her). Tatum Dooley, Teen Vogue, "This Is Why Jaclyn Hill, James Charles, and Laura Lee Don't Wear Makeup in Their Apology Videos," 17 June 2019 However, regular cardio and strength-training will tone muscle and decrease the appearance of cellulite. April Franzino, Good Housekeeping, "Is It Possible to Get Rid of Cellulite? Here's What Dermatologists Say," 24 May 2019 To lock moisture into her skin after toning, Kyla pats on the Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence. Devon Abelman, Allure, "Kyla Massie of K-Pop Group Pristin Shares Her Favorite Skin-Care Products on Twitter," 8 May 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tone.' 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 tone


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1674, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 5

History and Etymology for tone


Middle English, from Anglo-French tun, ton, from Latin tonus tension, tone, from Greek tonos, literally, act of stretching; akin to Greek teinein to stretch — more at thin

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Learn More about tone

Dictionary Entries near tone

tonca bean





tone accent


Statistics for tone

Last Updated

14 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tone

The first known use of tone was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for tone



English Language Learners Definition of tone

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the quality of a person's voice
: the quality of a sound produced by a musical instrument or singing voice
: a quality, feeling, or attitude expressed by the words that someone uses in speaking or writing



English Language Learners Definition of tone (Entry 2 of 2)

: to give strength and firmness to (something, such as muscles or skin)


\ ˈtōn How to pronounce tone (audio) \

Kids Definition of tone

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an individual way of speaking or writing especially when used to express an emotion He replied in a friendly tone.
2 : common character or quality There was a polite tone to the discussions.
3 : quality of spoken or musical sound
4 : a sound on one pitch
5 : a shade of color The room is decorated in soft tones.
6 : a color that changes another It's gray with a blue tone.
7 : a healthy state of the body or any of its parts He has good muscle tone.


toned; toning

Kids Definition of tone (Entry 2 of 2)

: to give a healthy state to : strengthen She exercised to tone up her muscles.
tone down
: to soften or blend in color, appearance, or sound Can you tone down the music?


\ ˈtōn How to pronounce tone (audio) \

Medical Definition of tone

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a sound of definite pitch and vibration
2a : the state of a living body or of any of its organs or parts in which the functions are healthy and performed with due vigor
b : normal tension or responsiveness to stimuli specifically : tonus sense 2
toned; toning

Medical Definition of tone (Entry 2 of 2)

: to impart tone to tone the muscles

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More from Merriam-Webster on tone

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with tone

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tone

Spanish Central: Translation of tone

Nglish: Translation of tone for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tone for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about tone

Comments on tone

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something desired as essential

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