Music. polyphonic composition; counterpoint.
Phonetics. representation of different sounds by the same letter or symbol.

Origin of polyphony

First recorded in 1820–30, polyphony is from the Greek word polyphōnía variety of tones. See poly-, -phony
Related formspo·lyph·o·nous, adjectivepo·lyph·o·nous·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for polyphony

Historical Examples of polyphony

  • It is the polyphony in the sections of storm and stress that goes wrong.

    Musical Criticisms

    Arthur Johnstone

  • The polyphony of the vocal parts is masterly and the melodic flow most charming.

    Giacomo Puccini

    Wakeling Dry

  • His polyphony is clearer, his tone, always big, is more sonorous and individual.

    Franz Liszt

    James Huneker

  • The polyphony was simple and the aim of the composition was popularity.

    Some Forerunners of Italian Opera

    William James Henderson

  • He was a fine master of polyphony, and as a genuine composer is second only to Byrde.


    John F. Runciman

British Dictionary definitions for polyphony


noun plural -nies

polyphonic style of composition or a piece of music utilizing it
the use of polyphones in a writing system
Derived Formspolyphonous, adjectivepolyphonously, adverb

Word Origin for polyphony

C19: from Greek poluphōnia diversity of tones, from poly- + phōnē speech, sound
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 polyphony

1828, "multiplicity of sounds," from Greek polyphonia "variety of sounds," from polyphonos "having many sounds or voices," from polys "many" (see poly-) + phone "voice, sound" (see fame (n.)). The meaning "counterpoint" (1864) is perhaps a back-formation from the adjective.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper