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off-key

[awf-kee, of-]
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adjective
  1. deviating from the correct tone or pitch; out of tune.
  2. Informal. somewhat irregular, abnormal, or incongruous.
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Origin of off-key

First recorded in 1925–30
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for off-key

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The thing in the middle now opened its mouth and made a noise that reminded Full of an off-key clarinet.

    The Enormous Room

    Horace Leonard Gold

  • A woman played a wheezing organ while a man led the off-key singing.

  • From inside came the rare sound of water splashing, mixed with a wheezing, off-key caterwauling.

    Police Your Planet

    Lester del Rey

  • I knew it was just about time for some kind of an off-key noise from you, you grouchy old leftover.

    At Good Old Siwash

    George Fitch

  • Two more flashes of electro-fire went spurting over his head and O'Toole started to sing in a loud, off-key voice.


Word Origin and History for off-key

adj.

1920, from off (adv.) + musical sense of key (n.1). Figurative sense is from 1943.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper