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noun Music.
  1. the absence of key or tonal center.
  2. an atonal principle or style of composition.
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Origin of atonality

First recorded in 1920–25; atonal + -ity
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for atonality


  1. absence of or disregard for an established musical key in a composition
  2. the principles of composition embodying this and providing a radical alternative to the diatonic system
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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

Word Origin and History for atonality


1950; see atonal + -ity.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper