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[puh-lif-uh-nee] /pəˈlɪf ə ni/
Music. polyphonic composition; counterpoint.
Phonetics. representation of different sounds by the same letter or symbol.
Origin of polyphony
First recorded in 1820-30, polyphony is from the Greek word polyphōnía variety of tones. See poly-, -phony
Related forms
polyphonous, adjective
polyphonously, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for polyphony
Historical Examples
  • polyphony, 215 that is, the simultaneous interweaving of many themes, was foreign to Berlioz and Liszt.

  • It is the polyphony in the sections of storm and stress that goes wrong.

    Musical Criticisms Arthur Johnstone
  • The polyphony of the vocal parts is masterly and the melodic flow most charming.

    Giacomo Puccini Wakeling Dry
  • But soon this discord was lost amid the massive Teutonic polyphony of well-being.

  • None but a master of polyphony could have attempted to express in music what Richard Strauss has expressed.

  • The art of polyphony is to be understood as an effort toward variety and unity combined.

  • His polyphony is clearer, his tone, always big, is more sonorous and individual.

    Franz Liszt James Huneker
  • This might account for the existence of the celebrated example of early English polyphony, a "canon" called "Sumer is icumen in."

    How Music Developed W. J. Henderson
  • He was a fine master of polyphony, and as a genuine composer is second only to Byrde.

    Purcell John F. Runciman
  • Bruneau handles the orchestra like an amateur, and his attempts at polyphony are merely ridiculous.

    The Opera R.A. Streatfeild
British Dictionary definitions for polyphony


noun (pl) -nies
polyphonic style of composition or a piece of music utilizing it
the use of polyphones in a writing system
Derived Forms
polyphonous, adjective
polyphonously, adverb
Word Origin
C19: from Greek poluphōnia diversity of tones, from poly- + phōnē speech, sound
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 polyphony

1828, "multiplicity of sounds," from Greek polyphonia "variety of sounds," from polyphonos "having many sounds or voices," from polys "many" (see poly-) + phone "voice, sound" (see fame (n.)). The meaning "counterpoint" (1864) is perhaps a back-formation from the adjective.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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