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[oh-ver-cher, -choo r] /ˈoʊ vər tʃər, -ˌtʃʊər/
an opening or initiating move toward negotiations, a new relationship, an agreement, etc.; a formal or informal proposal or offer:
overtures of peace; a shy man who rarely made overtures of friendship.
  1. an orchestral composition forming the prelude or introduction to an opera, oratorio, etc.
  2. an independent piece of similar character.
an introductory part, as of a poem; prelude; prologue.
  1. the action of an ecclesiastical court in submitting a question or proposal to presbyteries.
  2. the proposal or question so submitted.
verb (used with object), overtured, overturing.
to submit as an overture or proposal:
to overture conditions for a ceasefire.
to make an overture or proposal to:
to overture one's adversary through a neutral party.
Origin of overture
1300-50; Middle English < Old French; see overt, -ure; doublet of aperture Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for overture
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was the overture to this work which caused so much difficulty to Corelli.

    Handel Edward J. Dent
  • But it was only the beginning of the overture, and she sat down laughing.

    The Christian Hall Caine
  • Arlt's overture was to have its first hearing, the week before Thanksgiving.

    The Dominant Strain Anna Chapin Ray
  • They were in their places just a few moments before the overture was played.

    Victor's Triumph Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth
  • He has nothing but the piano concerto, an overture he wrote in Germany, and some songs.

    Melomaniacs James Huneker
British Dictionary definitions for overture


  1. a piece of orchestral music containing contrasting sections that is played at the beginning of an opera or oratorio, often containing the main musical themes of the work
  2. a similar piece preceding the performance of a play
  3. Also called concert overture. a one-movement orchestral piece, usually having a descriptive or evocative title
  4. a short piece in three movements (French overture or Italian overture) common in the 17th and 18th centuries
(often pl) a proposal, act, or gesture initiating a relationship, negotiation, etc
something that introduces what follows
verb (transitive)
to make or present an overture to
to introduce with an overture
Word Origin
C14: via Old French, from Late Latin apertūra opening, from Latin aperīre to open; see overt
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 overture

mid-13c., "opening, aperture;" early 15c. as "an introductory proposal," from Old French overture "opening; proposal" (Modern French ouverture), from Latin apertura "opening," from aperire "to open, uncover" (see overt). Orchestral sense first recorded in English 1660s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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overture in Culture

overture definition

A piece of music for instruments alone, written as an introduction to a longer work, such as an opera, an oratorio, or a musical comedy.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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