[sem-ee-tohn, sem-ahy-]

Origin of semitone

First recorded in 1600–10; semi- + tone
Also called half step, half tone.
Related formssem·i·ton·ic [sem-ee-ton-ik, sem-ahy-] /ˌsɛm iˈtɒn ɪk, ˌsɛm aɪ-/, sem·i·ton·al [sem-ee-tohn-l, sem-ahy-] /ˌsɛm iˈtoʊn l, ˌsɛm aɪ-/, adjectivesem·i·ton·al·ly, adverb Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for semitone

Historical Examples of semitone

British Dictionary definitions for semitone


  1. an interval corresponding to a frequency difference of 100 cents as measured in the system of equal temperament, and denoting the pitch difference between certain adjacent degrees of the diatonic scale (diatonic semitone) or between one note and its sharpened or flattened equivalent (chromatic semitone); minor secondAlso called (US and Canadian): half step Compare whole tone
Derived Formssemitonic (ˌsɛmɪˈtɒnɪk), adjectivesemitonally, adverb
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 semitone

c.1600, from semi- + tone (n.) in the musical sense.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper