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adjective Music.
  1. noting those scales that contain five whole tones and two semitones, as the major, minor, and certain modal scales.
  2. of or relating to the tones, intervals, or harmonies of such scales.

Origin of diatonic

1590–1600; < Late Latin diatonicus < Greek diatonikós; see dia-, tonic
Related formsdi·a·ton·i·cal·ly, adverbun·di·a·ton·ic, adjectiveun·di·a·ton·i·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for diatonic

neutral, colorless, diatonic

Examples from the Web for diatonic

Historical Examples of diatonic

British Dictionary definitions for diatonic


  1. of, relating to, or based upon any scale of five tones and two semitones produced by playing the white keys of a keyboard instrument, esp the natural major or minor scales forming the basis of the key system in Western musicCompare chromatic (def. 2)
  2. not involving the sharpening or flattening of the notes of the major or minor scale nor the use of such notes as modified by accidentals
Derived Formsdiatonically, adverbdiatonicism (ˌdaɪəˈtɒnɪˌsɪzəm), noun

Word Origin for diatonic

C16: from Late Latin diatonicus, from Greek diatonikos, from diatonos extending, from diateinein to stretch out, from dia- + teinein to stretch
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 diatonic

c.1600, from French diatonique, from Latin diatonicus, from Greek diatonikos, from diatonos "extending; pertaining to the diatonic scale," from dia- (see dia-) + teinein "to stretch" (see tenet).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper