[ oh-ver-cher, -choor ]
See synonyms for overture on Thesaurus.com
  1. an opening or initiating move toward negotiations, a new relationship, an agreement, etc.; a formal or informal proposal or offer: overtures of peace; a shy man who rarely made overtures of friendship.

  2. Music.

    • an orchestral composition forming the prelude or introduction to an opera, oratorio, etc.

    • an independent piece of similar character.

  1. an introductory part, as of a poem; prelude; prologue.

  2. (in Presbyterian churches)

    • the action of an ecclesiastical court in submitting a question or proposal to presbyteries.

    • the proposal or question so submitted.

verb (used with object),o·ver·tured, o·ver·tur·ing.
  1. to submit as an overture or proposal: to overture conditions for a ceasefire.

  2. to make an overture or proposal to: to overture one's adversary through a neutral party.

Origin of overture

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English, from Old French; see overt, -ure; doublet of aperture

synonym study For overture

1. See proposal.

Words Nearby overture

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use overture in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for overture


/ (ˈəʊvəˌtjʊə) /

  1. music

    • a piece of orchestral music containing contrasting sections that is played at the beginning of an opera or oratorio, often containing the main musical themes of the work

    • a similar piece preceding the performance of a play

    • Also called: concert overture a one-movement orchestral piece, usually having a descriptive or evocative title

    • a short piece in three movements (French overture or Italian overture) common in the 17th and 18th centuries

  2. (often plural) a proposal, act, or gesture initiating a relationship, negotiation, etc

  1. something that introduces what follows

  1. to make or present an overture to

  2. to introduce with an overture

Origin of overture

C14: via Old French, from Late Latin apertūra opening, from Latin aperīre to open; see overt

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

Cultural definitions for overture


A piece of music for instruments alone, written as an introduction to a longer work, such as an opera, an oratorio, or a musical comedy.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.