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See more synonyms for emphasis on Thesaurus.com
noun, plural em·pha·ses [em-fuh-seez] /ˈɛm fəˌsiz/.
  1. special stress laid upon, or importance attached to, anything: The president's statement gave emphasis to the budgetary crisis.
  2. something that is given great stress or importance: Morality was the emphasis of his speech.
  3. Rhetoric.
    1. special and significant stress of voice laid on particular words or syllables.
    2. stress laid on particular words, by means of position, repetition, or other indication.
  4. intensity or force of expression, action, etc.: Determination lent emphasis to his proposals.
  5. prominence, as of form or outline: The background detracts from the emphasis of the figure.
  6. Electronics. preemphasis.
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Origin of emphasis

1565–75; < Latin < Greek émphasis indication, equivalent to em- em-2 + phásis phasis
Related formsmis·em·pha·sis, noun, plural mis·em·pha·ses.re·em·pha·sis, noun, plural re·em·pha·ses.su·per·em·pha·sis, noun, plural su·per·em·pha·ses.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for emphases

Historical Examples

  • Study it so sympathetically that you can follow its hints, and make its emphases.

    Literature in the Elementary School

    Porter Lander MacClintock

  • He then began to read in a good round resonant voice, with clear enunciation and careful attention to his pauses and emphases.

    The American Claimant

    Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

  • Its emphases vary according to my own indifferences and ignorance as well as according to my own sympathies and knowledge.

  • These emphases in our defense planning have been made at my personal direction after long and thoughtful study.

  • The variations and emphases that feeling may dictate can be done in the painting stage.

British Dictionary definitions for emphases


noun plural -ses (-siːz)
  1. special importance or significance
  2. an object, idea, etc, that is given special importance or significance
  3. stress made to fall on a particular syllable, word, or phrase in speaking
  4. force or intensity of expressionhe spoke with special emphasis on the subject of civil rights
  5. sharpness or clarity of form or outlinethe sunlight gave emphasis to the shape of the mountain
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Word Origin

C16: via Latin from Greek: meaning, (in rhetoric) significant stress; see emphatic
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 emphases



1570s, from Latin emphasis, from Greek emphasis "significance, indirect meaning," from emphainein "to present, show, indicate," from en "in" (see en- (2)) + phainein "to show" (see phantasm). In Greek and Latin, it developed a sense of "extra stress" given to a word or phrase in speech as a clue that it implies something more than literal meaning.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper