[ tam-ber, tim-; French tan-bruh ]
/ ˈtæm bər, ˈtɪm-; French ˈtɛ̃ brə /


Acoustics, Phonetics. the characteristic quality of a sound, independent of pitch and loudness, from which its source or manner of production can be inferred. Timbre depends on the relative strengths of the components of different frequencies, which are determined by resonance.
Music. the characteristic quality of sound produced by a particular instrument or voice; tone color.

Origin of timbre

1325–75; Middle English tymbre < French: sound (orig. of bell), Middle French: bell, timbrel, drum, Old French: drum < Medieval Greek tímbanon, variant of Greek týmpanon drum
Can be confusedtimber timbre
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for timbre

British Dictionary definitions for timbre


/ (ˈtɪmbə, ˈtæmbə, French tɛ̃brə) /


phonetics the distinctive tone quality differentiating one vowel or sonant from another
music tone colour or quality of sound, esp a specific type of tone colour

Word Origin for timbre

C19: from French: note of a bell, from Old French: drum, from Medieval Greek timbanon, from Greek tumpanon drum
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 timbre



"characteristic quality of a musical sound," 1849, from French timbre "quality of a sound," earlier "sound of a bell," from Old French, "bell without a clapper," originally "drum," probably via Medieval Greek *timbanon, from Greek tympanon "kettledrum" (see tympanum). Timbre was used in Old French (13c.) and Middle English (14c.) to render Latin tympanum in Ps. 150.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper