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[pol-ee-fon-ik] /ˌpɒl iˈfɒn ɪk/
consisting of many voices or sounds.
  1. having two or more voices or parts, each with an independent melody, but all harmonizing; contrapuntal (opposed to homophonic).
  2. pertaining to music of this kind.
  3. capable of producing more than one tone at a time, as an organ or a harp.
Phonetics. having more than one phonetic value, as the letter s, that is voiced (z) in nose and unvoiced (s) in salt.
Origin of polyphonic
First recorded in 1775-85; polyphone + -ic
Related forms
polyphonically, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for polyphonic
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He is not polyphonic,—to borrow a musical metaphor,—but monophonie.


    James Huneker
  • The tune is distinctly in the modern key of G major, and it is not polyphonic.

    How Music Developed W. J. Henderson
  • The polyphonic writing is matchless in its evenness; every part is as good as every other part.

    How Music Developed W. J. Henderson
  • We have seen how it grew out of organ playing and was at first polyphonic.

    How Music Developed W. J. Henderson
  • A few themes with polyphonic variations filled his simple life.

    Unicorns James Huneker
  • polyphonic complexity is to be found in some of the Mazourkas.

    Unicorns James Huneker
  • The result is best known in the polyphonic 16th-century motets.

  • These tendencies are designated by the terms Homophonic and polyphonic.

    Music: An Art and a Language Walter Raymond Spalding
  • We can now begin to realize the importance of polyphonic music.

    Music: An Art and a Language Walter Raymond Spalding
British Dictionary definitions for polyphonic


(music) composed of relatively independent melodic lines or parts; contrapuntal
(phonetics) of, relating to, or denoting a polyphone
Derived Forms
polyphonically, adverb
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 polyphonic

1782, formed in English from Greek polyphonos (see polyphony).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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