• synonyms


[tim-puh-nuh m]
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noun, plural tym·pa·nums, tym·pa·na [tim-puh-nuh] /ˈtɪm pə nə/.
  1. Anatomy, Zoology.
    1. middle ear.
    2. tympanic membrane.
  2. Architecture.
    1. the recessed, usually triangular space enclosed between the horizontal and sloping cornices of a pediment, often decorated with sculpture.
    2. a similar space between an arch and the horizontal head of a door or window below.
  3. Electricity. the diaphragm of a telephone.
  4. a drum or similar instrument.
  5. the stretched membrane forming a drumhead.
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Origin of tympanum

1610–20; < Latin < Greek týmpanon drum, akin to týptein to beat, strike
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for tympanum

Historical Examples

  • It consists of a tympanum or drum, having a stylus attached as in the phonograph.

    Heroes of the Telegraph

    J. Munro

  • The tympanum is filled with stones arranged in zig-zag patterns.

    Scottish Cathedrals and Abbeys

    Dugald Butler and Herbert Story

  • The tympanum of the large arch is pierced with a quatrefoil or trefoil.

    Scottish Cathedrals and Abbeys

    Dugald Butler and Herbert Story

  • Imagine such an establishment domesticated at one's tympanum!

    The Caxtons, Complete

    Edward Bulwer-Lytton

  • In the tympanum are good reliefs and a well-cut Adoration of the Magi.

    Cathedral Cities of Spain

    William Wiehe Collins

British Dictionary definitions for tympanum


noun plural -nums or -na (-nə)
    1. the cavity of the middle ear
    2. another name for tympanic membrane
  1. any diaphragm resembling that in the middle ear in function
  2. Also called: tympan architect
    1. the recessed space bounded by the cornices of a pediment, esp one that is triangular in shape and ornamented
    2. the recessed space bounded by an arch and the lintel of a doorway or window below it
  3. music a tympan or drum
  4. a scoop wheel for raising water
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Word Origin

C17: from Latin, from Greek tumpanon drum; related to Greek tuptein to beat
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 tympanum


"drum of the ear," 1610s, from Medieval Latin tympanum, introduced in this sense by Italian anatomist Gabriello Fallopio (1523-1562), from Latin tympanum "drum," from Greek tympanon "a drum, panel of a door," from root of typtein "to beat, strike" (see type (n.)). Cf. Old English timpan "drum, timbrel, tambourine," from Latin tympanum. The modern meaning "a drum" is attested in English from 1670s.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

tympanum in Medicine


n. pl. tym•pa•nums
  1. middle ear
  2. eardrum