tone - definition and synonyms


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  1. 1
    [countable/uncountable] the sound of someone’s voice that shows what they are feeling

    Meredith trembled at the tenderness in his tone.

    a tone of voice:

    Really?’ Simone said in a surprised tone of voice.

    Don’t you take that tone of voice with me (=don’t speak to me so rudely)!

    1. a.
      the type of sound that someone makes with their voice in a particular situation

      They were sitting close together, talking in hushed tones.

  2. 2
    [singular/uncountable] the general character of a place or event

    The positive tone of the evening had changed completely.

    set the tone (for something):

    The opening remarks set the tone for the rest of the interview.

    raise/lower the tone (of something):

    Trust you to lower the tone of the whole conversation!

    1. a.
      the general attitude shown by a piece of writing

      Much of his writing has a rather strident tone to it.

      in tone:

      Their next letter was more optimistic in tone.

  3. 3
    [countable/uncountable] music the quality of the sound made by a musical instrument, voice, or piece of electronic equipment

    a flute with a clear bright tone

  4. 4
    [countable] a sound made by a piece of equipment as a signal or warning

    I picked up the phone and just got a beeping tone.

    The answering machine said to leave a message after the tone.

    the engaged tone (=the sound you hear when the number you want to telephone is being used):

    I keep getting the engaged tone.

  5. 6
    [countable] music an amount equal to two semitones by which a musical note is higher or lower than another note
     Synonyms and related words
  6. 7
    [uncountable] the firm or healthy quality of your body, muscles, or skin
    muscle/skin tone:

    The patient’s general muscle tone is good.

  7. 8
    [countable/uncountable] linguistics the degree to which the sound of a word or part of a word is high or low

    You use a rising tone in English to indicate a question.