[dis-uh-nuh ns]


inharmonious or harsh sound; discord; cacophony.
  1. a simultaneous combination of tones conventionally accepted as being in a state of unrest and needing completion.
  2. an unresolved, discordant chord or interval.Compare consonance(def 3).
disagreement or incongruity.

Origin of dissonance

1565–75; < Late Latin dissonantia, equivalent to disson- (see dissonant) + -antia -ance
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for dissonance

Contemporary Examples of dissonance

  • These subversive narratives were not the solution I sought to the dissonance between my expected and actual college experience.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Freshman Year Sucks—and That’s OK

    Eleanor Hyun

    November 12, 2014

  • The darkness and dissonance of these tightly constructed tales reflect something of the political turbulence of Soviet Russia.

  • There was no camp, kitsch, or dissonance to his pure love of Michael Jackson.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Men in the Mirror

    Richard Abowitz

    October 14, 2009

Historical Examples of dissonance

  • The dissonance is at its highest, yet the hour has struck for the lift of harmony.

    Child and Country

    Will Levington Comfort

  • There is dissonance from chaos; the song clears as the order begins.

    Child and Country

    Will Levington Comfort

  • The dissonance between her feelings and her actions troubled her no whit.

  • A "Meditation" is bleak, with a strong, free use of dissonance.

  • They concentrated, tuned, turned their thoughts against the dissonance.

    Captives of the Flame

    Samuel R. Delany

British Dictionary definitions for dissonance




a discordant combination of sounds
lack of agreement or consistency
  1. a sensation commonly associated with all intervals of the second and seventh, all diminished and augmented intervals, and all chords based on these intervalsCompare consonance (def. 3)
  2. an interval or chord of this kind
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 dissonance

early 15c., "disagreement," from Middle French dissonance and directly from Late Latin dissonantia, from Latin dissonantem (see dissonant). Figurative use dates from 1875.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper