• synonyms


[toon, tyoon]
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  1. a succession of musical sounds forming an air or melody, with or without the harmony accompanying it.
  2. a musical setting of a hymn, poem, psalm, etc., usually in four-part harmony.
  3. the state of being in the proper pitch: to be in tune.
  4. agreement in pitch; unison; harmony.
  5. proper adjustment, as of radio instruments or circuits with respect to frequency.
  6. harmonious relationship; accord; agreement.
  7. Archaic. frame of mind; mood.
  8. Obsolete. a tone or sound.
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verb (used with object), tuned, tun·ing.
  1. to adjust (a musical instrument) to a correct or given standard of pitch (often followed by up).
  2. to adapt (the voice, song, etc.) to a particular tone, to the expression of a particular feeling, or the like.
  3. to bring (someone or something) into harmony.
  4. to adjust (a motor, mechanism, or the like) for proper functioning.
  5. Radio and Television.
    1. to adjust (a circuit, frequency, or the like) so as to bring it into resonance with another circuit, a given frequency, or the like.
    2. to adjust (a receiving apparatus) so as to make it compatible in frequency with a transmitting apparatus whose signals are to be received.
    3. to adjust (a receiving apparatus) so as to receive the signals of a particular transmitting station.
  6. to put into or cause to be in a receptive condition, mood, etc.; bring into harmony or agreement.
  7. Archaic.
    1. to utter, sound, or express musically.
    2. to play upon (a lyre).
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verb (used without object), tuned, tun·ing.
  1. to put a musical instrument in tune (often followed by up).
  2. to give forth a musical sound.
  3. to be in harmony or accord; become responsive.
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Verb Phrases
  1. tune in, to adjust a radio or television set so as to receive (signals, a particular station, etc.).
  2. tune out,
    1. to adjust a radio or television set so as to stop or avoid receiving (a station or channel).
    2. Slang.to stop paying attention to a person, situation, etc.
  3. tune up,
    1. to cause a group of musical instruments to be brought to the same pitch.
    2. to begin to sing.
    3. to bring into proper operating order, as a motor: Before starting on our trip we should have the car tuned up.
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  1. call the tune, to decide matters of policy; control: He was technically running the business, but his father still called the tune.
  2. change one's tune, to reverse one's views; change one's mind: She changed her tune about children when she married and had her own.
  3. sing a different tune, to be forced to change one's ways, attitude, behavior, etc.: He will sing a different tune when he has to earn his own money.
  4. to the tune of, Informal. in or about the amount of: In order to expand, they will need capital to the tune of six million dollars.
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Origin of tune

1350–1400; Middle English (noun); unexplained variant of tone
Related formsmis·tune, verb, mis·tuned, mis·tun·ing.non·tuned, adjectivere·tune, verb (used with object), re·tuned, re·tun·ing.un·der·tune, nounun·der·tune, verb (used with object), un·der·tuned, un·der·tun·ing.un·tuned, adjectivewell-tuned, adjective

Synonyms for tune

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for call the tune

control, organize, run, attend, oversee, manage, regulate, direct, keep, supervise, handle, operate, order, impose, prescribe, guide, govern, adapt, predispose, incline

British Dictionary definitions for call the tune


  1. a melody, esp one for which harmony is not essential
  2. the most important part in a musical texturethe cello has the tune at that point
  3. the condition of producing accurately pitched notes, intervals, etc (esp in the phrases in tune, out of tune)he can't sing in tune
  4. accurate correspondence of pitch and intonation between instruments (esp in the phrases in tune, out of tune)the violin is not in tune with the piano
  5. the correct adjustment of a radio, television, or some other electronic circuit with respect to the required frequency (esp in the phrases in tune, out of tune)
  6. a frame of mind; disposition or mood
  7. obsolete a musical sound; note
  8. call the tune to be in control of the proceedings
  9. change one's tune, sing another tune or sing another a different tune to alter one's attitude or tone of speech
  10. to the tune of informal to the amount or extent ofcosts to the tune of a hundred pounds
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  1. to adjust (a musical instrument or a changeable part of one) to a certain pitch
  2. to adjust (a note, etc) so as to bring it into harmony or concord
  3. (tr) to adapt or adjust (oneself); attuneto tune oneself to a slower life
  4. (tr often foll by up) to make fine adjustments to (an engine, machine, etc) to obtain optimum performance
  5. electronics to adjust (one or more circuits) for resonance at a desired frequency
  6. obsolete to utter (something) musically or in the form of a melody; sing
  7. tune someone grief Southern African slang to annoy or harass someone
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Word Origin for tune

C14: variant of tone
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 call the tune



late 14c., "a musical sound, a succession of musical notes," unexplained variant of tone. Meaning "state of being in proper pitch" is from mid-15c.

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"bring into a state of proper pitch," c.1500, from tune (n.). Non-musical meaning "to adjust an organ or receiver" is recorded from 1887. Verbal phrase tune in in reference to radio (later also TV) is recorded from 1913; figurative sense of "become aware" is recorded from 1926. Tune out "to eliminate radio reception" is recorded from 1908; figurative sense of "disregard, stop heeding" is from 1928. Related: Tuned; tuning.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

call the tune in Culture

call the tune

To be in control. The phrase comes from the proverbThe one who pays the piper calls the tune.”

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with call the tune

call the tune

Make important decisions, exercise authority, as in Nancy said that it's her turn to call the tune. The full term is Who pays the piper calls the tune, meaning whoever bears the cost of an enterprise should have authority over it. [Late 1800s] Also see the synonym call the shots.

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In addition to the idioms beginning with tune

  • tune in
  • tune out
  • tune up

also see:

  • call the tune
  • carry a tune
  • change one's tune
  • dance to another tune
  • in tune
  • to the tune of
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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.