unable to distinguish differences in pitch in musical sounds when producing or hearing them.

Origin of tone-deaf

First recorded in 1890–95
Related formstone deafness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tone-deaf

Contemporary Examples of tone-deaf

  • Some hated his tone-deaf assertion that he has behaved with “lightness” toward women.

    The Daily Beast logo
    DSK: the Fallout Continues

    Tracy McNicoll

    September 20, 2011

  • The story writes itself: ‘President Proves She Is Tone-Deaf on Economy.’

    The Daily Beast logo
    Meet the First Female President

    Nicolle Wallace

    October 17, 2010

  • Flo was not just mediocre: she was catastrophically tragic, tone-deaf, screechy and, as Randy Jackson would say, “pitchy, dawg!”

    The Daily Beast logo
    Dead Cool: Florence Foster Jenkins

    Simon Doonan

    July 10, 2010

  • This “ surprising option” (as the tone-deaf Times headline calls it) is often viewed as caddish.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The New Unsafe Sex

    Tracy Quan

    July 28, 2009

Historical Examples of tone-deaf

  • There are people who are colour-blind, people who are tone-deaf.

  • Trilby the tone-deaf, who couldn't sing one single note in tune!


    George Du Maurier

  • Some people are "tone-deaf," and they find it physically impossible to observe the law of contrasts.

  • Some people are tone-deaf, and they find it physically impossible to observe the law of contrasts.

    Vocal Expression

    Katherine Jewell Everts

  • It is easy to understand that this master of harmony possessed no charms for a tone-deaf young man.

    Makers of Electricity

    Brother Potamian

British Dictionary definitions for tone-deaf



unable to distinguish subtle differences in musical pitch
Derived Formstone deafness, noun
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