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[tam-ber, tim-; French tan-bruh] /ˈtæm bər, ˈtɪm-; French ˈtɛ̃ brə/
Acoustics, Phonetics. the characteristic quality of a sound, independent of pitch and loudness, from which its source or manner of production can be inferred. Timbre depends on the relative strengths of the components of different frequencies, which are determined by resonance.
Music. the characteristic quality of sound produced by a particular instrument or voice; tone color.
Origin of timbre
1325-75; Middle English tymbre < French: sound (orig. of bell), Middle French: bell, timbrel, drum, Old French: drum < Medieval Greek tímbanon, variant of Greek týmpanon drum
Can be confused
timber, timbre. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for timbre


/ˈtɪmbə; ˈtæmbə; French tɛ̃brə/
(phonetics) the distinctive tone quality differentiating one vowel or sonant from another
(music) tone colour or quality of sound, esp a specific type of tone colour
Word Origin
C19: from French: note of a bell, from Old French: drum, from Medieval Greek timbanon, from Greek tumpanon drum
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 timbre

"characteristic quality of a musical sound," 1849, from French timbre "quality of a sound," earlier "sound of a bell," from Old French, "bell without a clapper," originally "drum," probably via Medieval Greek *timbanon, from Greek tympanon "kettledrum" (see tympanum). Timbre was used in Old French (13c.) and Middle English (14c.) to render Latin tympanum in Ps. 150.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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