• synonyms


[sem-ee-tohn, sem-ahy-]
noun Music.
  1. a pitch interval halfway between two whole tones.
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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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for semitone

Historical Examples

  • A diesis is a quarter tone; hence in a semitone there are included two dieses.

    Ten Books on Architecture


  • The normal ear has such a range as to give about 33 rods to the semitone.

    How it Works

    Archibald Williams

  • From the sublime to the arabesque is but a semitone in his antic mind.

  • It would be unpardonable not to know how to distinguish or at least to sound a semitone.

  • Now, as to Paganini's tuning his instrument a semitone higher than the ordinary pitch.

    Nicolo Paganini: His Life and Work

    Stephen Samuel Stratton

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
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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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper