[ doun-beet ]
/ ˈdaʊnˌbit /

noun Music.

the downward stroke of a conductor's arm or baton indicating the first or accented beat of a measure.
the first beat of a measure.


gloomy or depressing; pessimistic: Hollywood movies seldom have downbeat endings.

Nearby words

  1. down-home,
  2. down-low,
  3. down-market,
  4. down-the-line,
  5. down-to-earth,
  6. downburst,
  7. downcast,
  8. downcastly,
  9. downcome,
  10. downcomer

Origin of downbeat

1875–80; down1 + beat (noun) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for downbeat

British Dictionary definitions for downbeat


/ (ˈdaʊnˌbiːt) /


music the first beat of a bar or the downward gesture of a conductor's baton indicating thisCompare upbeat


informal depressed; gloomy
informal relaxed; unemphatic
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 downbeat


1876 (n.), in reference to downward stroke of a conductor's baton; 1952 (adj.) in figurative sense of "pessimistic," but that is probably via associations of the word down (adv.), because the beat itself is no more pessimistic than the upbeat is optimistic.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper