[ sim-fuh-nee ]
/ ˈsɪm fə ni /

noun, plural sym·pho·nies.

  1. an elaborate instrumental composition in three or more movements, similar in form to a sonata but written for an orchestra and usually of far grander proportions and more varied elements.
  2. an instrumental passage occurring in a vocal composition, or between vocal movements in a composition.
  3. an instrumental piece, often in several movements, forming the overture to an opera or the like.
a concert performed by a symphony orchestra.
anything characterized by a harmonious combination of elements, especially an effective combination of colors.
harmony of sounds.
Archaic. agreement; concord.

Origin of symphony

1250–1300; Middle English symfonye < Old French symphonie < Latin symphōnia concert < Greek symphōnía harmony. See sym-, -phony
Related formspre·sym·pho·ny, noun, plural pre·sym·pho·nies. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for symphony

British Dictionary definitions for symphony


/ (ˈsɪmfənɪ) /

noun plural -nies

Derived Formssymphonic (sɪmˈfɒnɪk), adjectivesymphonically, adverb

Word Origin for symphony

C13: from Old French symphonie, from Latin symphōnia concord, concert, from Greek sumphōnia, from syn- + phōnē 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 symphony



late 13c., the name of various musical instruments, from Old French symphonie "harmony" (12c.), from Latin symphonia "a unison of sounds, harmony," from Greek symphonia "harmony, concert," from symphonos "harmonious," from syn- "together" (see syn-) + phone "voice, sound" (see fame (n.)).

Meaning "harmony of sounds" is attested from mid-15c.; sense of "music in parts" is from 1590s. "It was only after the advent of Haydn that this word began to mean a sonata for full orchestra. Before that time it meant a prelude, postlude, or interlude, or any short instrumental work." ["Elson's Music Dictionary"] Meaning "elaborate orchestral composition" first attested 1789 (symphonic in this sense is from 1864). Elliptical for "symphony orchestra" from 1926.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for symphony


An extended musical composition for orchestra in several movements, typically four. Among the composers especially known for their symphonies are Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Franz Josef Haydn, Gustav Mahler, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

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.