call the tune, to decide matters of policy; control: He was technically running the business, but his father still called the tune.
    change one's tune, to reverse one's views; change one's mind: She changed her tune about children when she married and had her own.
    sing a different tune, to be forced to change one's ways, attitude, behavior, etc.: He will sing a different tune when he has to earn his own money.
    to the tune of, Informal. in or about the amount of: In order to expand, they will need capital to the tune of six million dollars.

Origin of tune

1350–1400; Middle English (noun); unexplained variant of tone
Related formsmis·tune, verb, mis·tuned, mis·tun·ing.non·tuned, adjectivere·tune, verb (used with object), re·tuned, re·tun·ing.un·der·tune, nounun·der·tune, verb (used with object), un·der·tuned, un·der·tun·ing.un·tuned, adjectivewell-tuned, adjective

Synonyms for tune


[toon, tyoon]


Thomas JamesTommy, born 1939, U.S. dancer, choreographer, actor, singer, and director. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tune

Contemporary Examples of tune

Historical Examples of tune

  • The tune was familiar to her in happier days, and she listened to it with tears.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • The birds feel it—and wonder at the tune that makes no noise.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • Coax him to let you teach him—and bear with him if he should sing out of tune.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • The removal of the helmet for the first tune revealed the man's features.

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

  • Their bugle sang again, but Dick did not know what the tune meant.

    The Rock of Chickamauga

    Joseph A. Altsheler

British Dictionary definitions for tune



a melody, esp one for which harmony is not essential
the most important part in a musical texturethe cello has the tune at that point
the condition of producing accurately pitched notes, intervals, etc (esp in the phrases in tune, out of tune)he can't sing in tune
accurate correspondence of pitch and intonation between instruments (esp in the phrases in tune, out of tune)the violin is not in tune with the piano
the correct adjustment of a radio, television, or some other electronic circuit with respect to the required frequency (esp in the phrases in tune, out of tune)
a frame of mind; disposition or mood
obsolete a musical sound; note
call the tune to be in control of the proceedings
change one's tune, sing another tune or sing another a different tune to alter one's attitude or tone of speech
to the tune of informal to the amount or extent ofcosts to the tune of a hundred pounds


to adjust (a musical instrument or a changeable part of one) to a certain pitch
to adjust (a note, etc) so as to bring it into harmony or concord
(tr) to adapt or adjust (oneself); attuneto tune oneself to a slower life
(tr often foll by up) to make fine adjustments to (an engine, machine, etc) to obtain optimum performance
electronics to adjust (one or more circuits) for resonance at a desired frequency
obsolete to utter (something) musically or in the form of a melody; sing
tune someone grief Southern African slang to annoy or harass someone

Word Origin for tune

C14: variant of tone
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 tune

late 14c., "a musical sound, a succession of musical notes," unexplained variant of tone. Meaning "state of being in proper pitch" is from mid-15c.


"bring into a state of proper pitch," c.1500, from tune (n.). Non-musical meaning "to adjust an organ or receiver" is recorded from 1887. Verbal phrase tune in in reference to radio (later also TV) is recorded from 1913; figurative sense of "become aware" is recorded from 1926. Tune out "to eliminate radio reception" is recorded from 1908; figurative sense of "disregard, stop heeding" is from 1928. Related: Tuned; tuning.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with tune


In addition to the idioms beginning with tune

  • tune in
  • tune out
  • tune up

also see:

  • call the tune
  • carry a tune
  • change one's tune
  • dance to another tune
  • in tune
  • to the tune of
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.