noun Music.

(used with a singular verb) the science of musical sounds.
(used with a plural verb) the partials or overtones of a fundamental tone.Compare overtone(def 1).
(used with a plural verb) the flageoletlike tones of a string, as a violin string, made to vibrate so as to bring out an overtone.

Origin of harmonics

First recorded in 1700–10; see origin at harmonic, -ics




pertaining to harmony, as distinguished from melody and rhythm.
marked by harmony; in harmony; concordant; consonant.
Physics. of, relating to, or noting a series of oscillations in which each oscillation has a frequency that is an integral multiple of the same basic frequency.
  1. (of a set of values) related in a manner analogous to the frequencies of tones that are consonant.
  2. capable of being represented by sine and cosine functions.
  3. (of a function) satisfying the Laplace equation.


Physics. a single oscillation whose frequency is an integral multiple of the fundamental frequency.

Origin of harmonic

1560–70; < Latin harmonicus < Greek harmonikós musical, suitable. See harmony, -ic
Related formshar·mon·i·cal·ly, adverbhar·mon·i·cal·ness, nounnon·har·mon·ic, adjectiveun·har·mon·ic, adjectiveun·har·mon·i·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for harmonics

Historical Examples of harmonics

British Dictionary definitions for harmonics



(functioning as singular) the science of musical sounds and their acoustic properties
(functioning as plural) the overtones of a fundamental note, as produced by lightly touching the string of a stringed instrument at one of its node points while playingSee harmonic (def. 6)



of, involving, producing, or characterized by harmony; harmonious
music of, relating to, or belonging to harmony
  1. capable of expression in the form of sine and cosine functions
  2. of or relating to numbers whose reciprocals form an arithmetic progression
physics of or concerned with an oscillation that has a frequency that is an integral multiple of a fundamental frequency
physics of or concerned with harmonics


physics music a component of a periodic quantity, such as a musical tone, with a frequency that is an integral multiple of the fundamental frequency. The first harmonic is the fundamental, the second harmonic (twice the fundamental frequency) is the first overtone, the third harmonic (three times the fundamental frequency) is the second overtone, etc
music (not in technical use) overtone: in this case, the first overtone is the first harmonic, etc
See also harmonics
Derived Formsharmonically, adverb

Word Origin for harmonic

C16: from Latin harmonicus relating to harmony
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 harmonics

1709, from harmonic; also see -ics.



1560s, "relating to music;" earlier (c.1500) armonical "tuneful, harmonious," from Latin harmonicus, from Greek harmonikos "harmonic, musical, skilled in music," from harmonia (see harmony). Meaning "relating to harmony" is from 1660s. The noun, short for harmionic tone, is recorded from 1777.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

harmonics in Science




Periodic motion whose frequency is a whole-number multiple of some fundamental frequency. The motion of objects or substances that vibrate or oscillate in a regular fashion, such as the strings of musical instruments, can be analyzed as a combination of a fundamental frequency and higher harmonics.♦ Harmonics above the first harmonic (the fundamental frequency) in sound waves are called overtones. The first overtone is the second harmonic, the second overtone is the third harmonic, and so on.


Related to or having the properties of such periodic motion.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.