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[rith -uh m] /ˈrɪð əm/
movement or procedure with uniform or patterned recurrence of a beat, accent, or the like.
  1. the pattern of regular or irregular pulses caused in music by the occurrence of strong and weak melodic and harmonic beats.
  2. a particular form of this:
    duple rhythm; triple rhythm.
measured movement, as in dancing.
Art, Literature. a patterned repetition of a motif, formal element, etc., at regular or irregular intervals in the same or a modified form.
the effect produced in a play, film, novel, etc., by the combination or arrangement of formal elements, as length of scenes, speech and description, timing, or recurrent themes, to create movement, tension, and emotional value in the development of the plot.
  1. metrical or rhythmical form; meter; cadence.
  2. a particular kind of metrical form.
  3. metrical movement.
the pattern of recurrent strong and weak accents, vocalization and silence, and the distribution and combination of these elements in speech.
Physiology. the regular recurrence of an action or function, as of the beat of the heart, or the menstrual cycle.
procedure marked by the regular recurrence of particular elements, phases, etc.:
the rhythm of the seasons.
regular recurrence of elements in a system of motion.
Origin of rhythm
1550-60; < Latin rhythmus < Greek rhythmós; compare rheîn to flow
Related forms
rhythmless, adjective
nonrhythm, noun
Can be confused
rhyme, rhythm.
9. flow, pulse, cadence. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for rhythm
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Johnnie watched her walking away, for the rhythm of her motion attracted him.

    Tiverton Tales Alice Brown
  • She was a little surprised at this noise of bravos in rhythm.

    My Double Life Sarah Bernhardt
  • A poor, sad puppet dancing to a tune I know not the rhythm of.

    The Golden Fountain Lilian Staveley
  • His voice rose; he was falling into the rhythm of a scene with Jacky.

    Howards End E. M. Forster
  • Music too is concerned with the principles of love in their application to harmony and rhythm.

    Symposium Plato
British Dictionary definitions for rhythm


  1. the arrangement of the relative durations of and accents on the notes of a melody, usually laid out into regular groups (bars) of beats, the first beat of each bar carrying the stress
  2. any specific arrangement of such groupings; time: quadruple rhythm
(in poetry)
  1. the arrangement of words into a more or less regular sequence of stressed and unstressed or long and short syllables
  2. any specific such arrangement; metre
(in painting, sculpture, architecture, etc) a harmonious sequence or pattern of masses alternating with voids, of light alternating with shade, of alternating colours, etc
any sequence of regularly recurring functions or events, such as the regular recurrence of certain physiological functions of the body, as the cardiac rhythm of the heartbeat
Derived Forms
rhythmless, adjective
Word Origin
C16: from Latin rhythmus, from Greek rhuthmos; related to rhein to flow
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 rhythm

1550s, "rhymed verse, metrical movement," from Latin rhythmus "movement in time," from Greek rhythmos "measured flow or movement, rhythm; proportion, symmetry; arrangement, order; form, shape, wise, manner; soul, disposition," related to rhein "to flow," from PIE root *sreu- "to flow" (see rheum). Rhythm method of birth control attested from 1936. Rhythm and blues, U.S. music style, is from 1949 (first in "Billboard").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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rhythm in Medicine

rhythm (rĭð'əm)
Movement or variation characterized by the regular recurrence or alternation of different quantities or conditions, as in the heartbeat.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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rhythm in Culture

rhythm definition

The “beat” of music; the regular pattern of long and short notes. Certain kinds of music, such as blues or marches, have a very characteristic rhythm. Rhythm, harmony, and melody are elements of music.

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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