[ tohn ]
See synonyms for tone on
  1. any sound considered with reference to its quality, pitch, strength, source, etc.: shrill tones.

  2. quality or character of sound.

  1. vocal sound; the sound made by vibrating muscular bands in the larynx.

  2. a particular quality, way of sounding, modulation, or intonation of the voice as expressive of some meaning, feeling, spirit, etc.: a tone of command.

  3. an accent peculiar to a person, people, locality, etc., or a characteristic mode of sounding words in speech.

  4. stress of voice on a syllable of a word.

  5. Linguistics. a musical pitch or movement in pitch serving to distinguish two words otherwise composed of the same sounds, as in Chinese.

  6. Music.

    • a musical sound of definite pitch, consisting of several relatively simple constituents called partial tones, the lowest of which is called the fundamental tone and the others harmonics or overtones.

    • an interval equivalent to two semitones; a whole tone; a whole step.

    • any of the nine melodies or tunes to which Gregorian plainsong psalms are sung.

  7. a quality of color with reference to the degree of absorption or reflection of light; a tint or shade; value.

  8. that distinctive quality by which colors differ from one another in addition to their differences indicated by chroma, tint, shade; a slight modification of a given color; hue:green with a yellowish tone.

  9. Art. the prevailing effect of harmony of color and values.

  10. Physiology.

    • the normal state of tension or responsiveness of the organs or tissues of the body.

    • that state of the body or of an organ in which all its functions are performed with healthy vigor.

    • normal sensitivity to stimulation.

  11. a normal healthy mental condition.

  12. a particular mental state or disposition; spirit, character, or tenor.

  13. a particular style or manner, as of writing or speech; mood: the macabre tone of Poe's stories.

  14. prevailing character or style, as of manners, morals, or philosophical outlook: the liberal tone of the 1960s.

  15. style, distinction, or elegance.

verb (used with object),toned, ton·ing.
  1. to sound with a particular tone.

  2. to give the proper tone to (a musical instrument).

  1. to modify the tone or general coloring of.

  2. to give the desired tone to (a painting, drawing, etc.).

  3. Photography. to change the color of (a print), especially by chemical means.

  4. to render as specified in tone or coloring.

  5. to modify the tone or character of.

  6. to give or restore physical or mental tone to.

verb (used without object),toned, ton·ing.
  1. to take on a particular tone; assume color or tint.

Verb Phrases
  1. tone down,

    • to become or cause to become softened or moderated: The newspaper toned down its attack.

    • Painting. to make (a color) less intense in hue; subdue.

  2. tone up,

    • to give a higher or stronger tone to.

    • to gain or cause to gain in tone or strength: toning up little-used muscles.

  1. tone (in) with, to harmonize in tone or coloring; blend: The painting tones with the room.

Origin of tone

First recorded in 1275–1325; Middle English (noun), from Latin tonus, from Greek tónos “strain, tone, mode,” literally, “a stretching,” akin to teínein “to stretch”

synonym study For tone

1. See sound1.

Other words for tone

Other words from tone

  • toneless, adjective
  • tone·less·ly, adverb
  • tone·less·ness, noun
  • mul·ti·toned, adjective
  • non·toned, adjective
  • un·toned, adjective
  • well-toned, adjective

Other definitions for Tone (2 of 2)

[ tohn ]

  1. (Theobald) Wolfe, 1763–98, Irish nationalist and martyr for independence. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use tone in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for tone (1 of 2)


/ (təʊn) /

  1. sound with reference to quality, pitch, or volume

  2. short for tone colour

  1. US and Canadian another word for note (def. 10)

  2. (in acoustic analysis) a sound resulting from periodic or regular vibrations, composed either of a simple sinusoidal waveform (pure tone) or of several such waveforms superimposed upon one main one (compound tone)

  3. an interval of a major second; whole tone

  4. Also called: Gregorian tone any of several plainsong melodies or other chants used in the singing of psalms

  5. linguistics any of the pitch levels or pitch contours at which a syllable may be pronounced, such as high tone, falling tone, etc

  6. the quality or character of a sound: a nervous tone of voice

  7. general aspect, quality, or style: I didn't like the tone of his speech

  8. high quality or style: to lower the tone of a place

  9. the quality of a given colour, as modified by mixture with white or black; shade; tint: a tone of red

  10. physiol

    • the normal tension of a muscle at rest

    • the natural firmness of the tissues and normal functioning of bodily organs in health

  11. the overall effect of the colour values and gradations of light and dark in a picture

  12. photog a colour or shade of colour, including black or grey, of a particular area on a negative or positive that can be distinguished from surrounding lighter or darker areas

  1. (intr often foll by with) to be of a matching or similar tone (to): the curtains tone with the carpet

  2. (tr) to give a tone to or correct the tone of

  1. photog (tr) to soften or change the colour of the tones of (a photographic image) by chemical means

  2. (tr) to give greater firmness or strength to (the body or a part of the body)

  3. an archaic word for intone

Origin of tone

C14: from Latin tonus, from Greek tonos tension, tone, from teinein to stretch

British Dictionary definitions for Tone (2 of 2)


/ (təʊn) /

  1. (Theobald) Wolfe. 1763–98, Irish nationalist, who founded (1791) the Society of United Irishmen and led (1798) French military forces to Ireland. He was captured and sentenced to death but committed suicide

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