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[hahr-mon-iks] /hɑrˈmɒn ɪks/
noun, Music.
(used with a singular verb) the science of musical sounds.
(used with a plural verb) the partials or overtones of a fundamental tone.
Compare overtone (def 1).
(used with a plural verb) the flageoletlike tones of a string, as a violin string, made to vibrate so as to bring out an overtone.
Origin of harmonics
First recorded in 1700-10; See origin at harmonic, -ics


[hahr-mon-ik] /hɑrˈmɒn ɪk/
pertaining to harmony, as distinguished from melody and rhythm.
marked by harmony; in harmony; concordant; consonant.
Physics. of, relating to, or noting a series of oscillations in which each oscillation has a frequency that is an integral multiple of the same basic frequency.
  1. (of a set of values) related in a manner analogous to the frequencies of tones that are consonant.
  2. capable of being represented by sine and cosine functions.
  3. (of a function) satisfying the Laplace equation.
Music. overtone (def 1).
Physics. a single oscillation whose frequency is an integral multiple of the fundamental frequency.
1560-70; < Latin harmonicus < Greek harmonikós musical, suitable. See harmony, -ic
Related forms
harmonically, adverb
harmonicalness, noun
nonharmonic, adjective
unharmonic, adjective
unharmonically, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for harmonics
Historical Examples
  • To a living being no “It is” can be absolute; wherever there is an “Is,” there, among its harmonics, lurks an “Is not.”

  • The second difficulty relates to Plato's conception of harmonics.

    The Republic Plato
  • Barbara with her delicate woman's sense felt the harmonics of chords swept within him.

    Jaffery William J. Locke
  • Some musical instruments are richer in these harmonics than others.

    The Romance of Modern Invention Archibald Williams
  • The second time, the first eight bars are to be played an octave higher then the first time; the third in harmonics.

    Nicolo Paganini: His Life and Work Stephen Samuel Stratton
  • The majority of students have trouble with their harmonics, because they do not practice them in this way.

    Violin Mastery Frederick H. Martens
  • These harmonics or overtones will be considered later when dealing with the timbre or quality of the human voice.

  • There are three variations, the second being almost throughout in harmonics, single and double, and excessively difficult.

    Nicolo Paganini: His Life and Work Stephen Samuel Stratton
  • His compositions abound with novel combinations; double stops, harmonics, and arpeggios are displayed with wonderful results.

    The Violin George Hart
  • harmonics is an obscure and difficult branch of musical science, especially for those who do not know Greek.

British Dictionary definitions for harmonics


(functioning as sing) the science of musical sounds and their acoustic properties
(functioning as pl) the overtones of a fundamental note, as produced by lightly touching the string of a stringed instrument at one of its node points while playing See harmonic (sense 6)


of, involving, producing, or characterized by harmony; harmonious
(music) of, relating to, or belonging to harmony
  1. capable of expression in the form of sine and cosine functions
  2. of or relating to numbers whose reciprocals form an arithmetic progression
(physics) of or concerned with an oscillation that has a frequency that is an integral multiple of a fundamental frequency
(physics) of or concerned with harmonics
(physics, music) a component of a periodic quantity, such as a musical tone, with a frequency that is an integral multiple of the fundamental frequency. The first harmonic is the fundamental, the second harmonic (twice the fundamental frequency) is the first overtone, the third harmonic (three times the fundamental frequency) is the second overtone, etc
(music) (not in technical use) overtone: in this case, the first overtone is the first harmonic, etc
See also harmonics
Derived Forms
harmonically, adverb
Word Origin
C16: from Latin harmonicus relating to harmony
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for harmonics

1709, from harmonic; also see -ics.



1560s, "relating to music;" earlier (c.1500) armonical "tuneful, harmonious," from Latin harmonicus, from Greek harmonikos "harmonic, musical, skilled in music," from harmonia (see harmony). Meaning "relating to harmony" is from 1660s. The noun, short for harmionic tone, is recorded from 1777.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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harmonics in Science

Noun  Periodic motion whose frequency is a whole-number multiple of some fundamental frequency. The motion of objects or substances that vibrate or oscillate in a regular fashion, such as the strings of musical instruments, can be analyzed as a combination of a fundamental frequency and higher harmonics. ◇ Harmonics above the first harmonic (the fundamental frequency) in sound waves are called overtones. The first overtone is the second harmonic, the second overtone is the third harmonic, and so on.

Adjective  Related to or having the properties of such periodic motion.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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