[ rith-uhm ]
See synonyms for: rhythmrhythms on Thesaurus.com

  1. movement or procedure with uniform or patterned recurrence of a beat, accent, or the like.

  2. Music.

    • the pattern of regular or irregular pulses caused in music by the occurrence of strong and weak melodic and harmonic beats: She taught us the song, tapping out the rhythm for us on the table.

    • a particular form of this: duple rhythm; triple rhythm.

  1. measured movement, as in dancing.

  2. Art, Literature. a patterned repetition of a motif, formal element, etc., at regular or irregular intervals in the same or a modified form: I loved the pattern and rhythm of her story, with the repeating line about ancestors being proud of her actions.

  3. the effect produced in a play, film, novel, etc., by the combination or arrangement of formal elements, as length of scenes, speech and description, timing, or recurrent themes, to create movement, tension, and emotional value in the development of the plot.

  4. Prosody.

    • metrical or rhythmical form; meter; cadence: Most of her poems are free verse and do not follow a strict rhythm.

    • a particular kind of metrical form: Iambic rhythm has been the principal mode of English poetry since Chaucer.

    • metrical movement.

  5. the pattern of recurrent strong and weak accents, vocalization and silence, and the distribution and combination of these elements in speech.

  6. Physiology. the regular recurrence of an action or function, as of the beat of the heart, or the menstrual cycle: Waking up at the same time each day is good for your circadian rhythm—your 24-hour "body clock."

  7. procedure marked by the regular recurrence of particular elements, phases, etc.: the rhythm of the seasons.

  8. regular recurrence of elements in a system of motion.

Origin of rhythm

First recorded in 1550–60; from Latin rhythmus, from Greek rhythmós; compare rheîn “to flow”

Other words for rhythm

Other words from rhythm

  • rhythm·less, adjective
  • non·rhythm, noun

Words that may be confused with rhythm

Words Nearby rhythm

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

How to use rhythm in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for rhythm


/ (ˈrɪðəm) /

    • the arrangement of the relative durations of and accents on the notes of a melody, usually laid out into regular groups (bars) of beats, the first beat of each bar carrying the stress

    • any specific arrangement of such groupings; time: quadruple rhythm

  1. (in poetry)

    • the arrangement of words into a more or less regular sequence of stressed and unstressed or long and short syllables

    • any specific such arrangement; metre

  1. (in painting, sculpture, architecture, etc) a harmonious sequence or pattern of masses alternating with voids, of light alternating with shade, of alternating colours, etc

  2. any sequence of regularly recurring functions or events, such as the regular recurrence of certain physiological functions of the body, as the cardiac rhythm of the heartbeat

Origin of rhythm

C16: from Latin rhythmus, from Greek rhuthmos; related to rhein to flow

Derived forms of rhythm

  • rhythmless, adjective

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 rhythm


The “beat” of music; the regular pattern of long and short notes. Certain kinds of music, such as blues or marches, have a very characteristic rhythm. Rhythm, harmony, and melody are elements of music.

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.