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[sim-fuh-nee] /ˈsɪm fə ni/
noun, plural symphonies.
  1. an elaborate instrumental composition in three or more movements, similar in form to a sonata but written for an orchestra and usually of far grander proportions and more varied elements.
  2. an instrumental passage occurring in a vocal composition, or between vocal movements in a composition.
  3. an instrumental piece, often in several movements, forming the overture to an opera or the like.
a concert performed by a symphony orchestra.
anything characterized by a harmonious combination of elements, especially an effective combination of colors.
harmony of sounds.
Archaic. agreement; concord.
Origin of symphony
1250-1300; Middle English symfonye < Old French symphonie < Latin symphōnia concert < Greek symphōnía harmony. See sym-, -phony
Related forms
presymphony, noun, plural presymphonies. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for symphony
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • When you write a symphony, you do it out of yourself, but not by yourself.

    The Dominant Strain Anna Chapin Ray
  • "I wonder if you realize what an event for your friends this symphony was," Sally broke in.

    The Dominant Strain Anna Chapin Ray
  • Without my friends, my symphony would have been left unwritten.

    The Dominant Strain Anna Chapin Ray
  • Necessarily the opera must be more romantic than the symphony.

  • There was nothing in the world she loved so much as a symphony orchestra.


    Jane Abbott
British Dictionary definitions for symphony


noun (pl) -nies
an extended large-scale orchestral composition, usually with several movements, at least one of which is in sonata form. The classical form of the symphony was fixed by Haydn and Mozart, but the innovations of subsequent composers have freed it entirely from classical constraints. It continues to be a vehicle for serious, large-scale orchestral music
a piece of instrumental music in up to three very short movements, used as an overture to or interlude in a baroque opera
any purely orchestral movement in a vocal work, such as a cantata or oratorio
short for symphony orchestra
(in musical theory, esp of classical Greece)
  1. another word for consonance (sense 3) Compare diaphony (sense 2)
  2. the interval of unison
anything distinguished by a harmonious composition: the picture was a symphony of green
(archaic) harmony in general; concord
Derived Forms
symphonic (sɪmˈfɒnɪk) adjective
symphonically, adverb
Word Origin
C13: from Old French symphonie, from Latin symphōnia concord, concert, from Greek sumphōnia, from syn- + phōnē 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 symphony

late 13c., the name of various musical instruments, from Old French symphonie "harmony" (12c.), from Latin symphonia "a unison of sounds, harmony," from Greek symphonia "harmony, concert," from symphonos "harmonious," from syn- "together" (see syn-) + phone "voice, sound" (see fame (n.)).

Meaning "harmony of sounds" is attested from mid-15c.; sense of "music in parts" is from 1590s. "It was only after the advent of Haydn that this word began to mean a sonata for full orchestra. Before that time it meant a prelude, postlude, or interlude, or any short instrumental work." ["Elson's Music Dictionary"] Meaning "elaborate orchestral composition" first attested 1789 (symphonic in this sense is from 1864). Elliptical for "symphony orchestra" from 1926.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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symphony in Culture

symphony definition

An extended musical composition for orchestra in several movements, typically four. Among the composers especially known for their symphonies are Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Franz Josef Haydn, Gustav Mahler, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

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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