Meaning of TONE in English


I. ˈtōn pronoun

Etymology: Middle English ton, alteration (resulting from incorrect division of thet on the one, from Old English thæt ān ) of on — more at that , one

chiefly dialect : one

and by my faith … the tone of us shall die — Childe Maurice

II. noun

( -s )

Usage: often attributive

Etymology: Middle English ton, tone, from Latin tonus tension, pitch, tone, from Greek tonos act of stretching, tension, pitch, tone, cord; akin to Sanskrit tāna fibre, tone, Greek teinein to stretch — more at thin

1. : vocal or musical sound ; especially : sound quality of a specific character

a voice with full, clear tone

spoke in low tones

sweet tone of a flute

harsh tone


a. : a sound that has such regularity of vibration as to impress the ear with a definite pitch sensation and is further characterized musically by loudness and timbre : musical sound — compare noise

b. : whole step

c. : tone quality

3. : an ecclesiastical mode or a traditional tune or plain chant of the church

the Gregorian tone


a. : accent or inflection of the voice as adapted to the emotion or passion expressed : vocal expressiveness

b. : vocal inflection characteristic of the speech of an individual, region, or nation : accent

c. : artificial modulation in speaking or reading : singsong or affected intonation

I never liked a man who spoke in a tone of voice — O.Henry


a. : the musical pitch or intonation of a sound, word, or sentence often used to express differences of meaning or function — see tone language

b. : one of the four notes or keys in which Chinese Mandarin sounds are pitched and which are often indicated beside the character or its romanized spelling by the figures 1, 2, 3, 4


a. : a particular pitch or change of pitch constituting an element in the intonation of a phrase or sentence

high tone

low tone

mid tone

low-rising tone

falling tone

b. : word stress

7. : style or manner of approach in speaking or writing : method of address

began in a defiant tone

seemed wise to adopt a conciliatory tone


a. : color quality or value : a tint or shade of color : a modification of a chromatic or achromatic color with respect to lightness or saturation

b. : the color that appreciably modifies a hue or white or black

a bright, dark, or light tone of blue

the gray walls took on a greenish tone

the soft tones of the old marble

9. : the general effect in painting of the harmonious combination of light and shade together with color


a. : the part of a print made from a photoengraving bearing the black or the color

b. : the relative darkness or color strength of different areas of a printed picture

dark, middle, and light tones

c. : the color of a photographic image

sepia tone

warm tones



(1) : the state of a living body or of any of its organs or parts in which the functions are healthy and performed with due vigor

(2) : overall vigor and well-balanced growth in a plant indicating satisfactory balance of environmental factors (as nutrients, moisture, light, heat)

b. : normal tension or responsiveness to stimuli : tonicity ; specifically : tonus


a. : healthy or normal elasticity : power to function or react under stress : resiliency

restore the tone of the body politic

fine tone of a critical intelligence

b. : general or prevailing character, quality, or trend of moral or social behavior

a city's low moral tone

judge a school by its tone

c. : frame of mind : mood , temper

philosophical tone

d. : the character of a market as reflected in activity, supply and demand, and price trend

the tone of the stock market was steady

13. : feeling tone

Synonyms: see color

III. verb

( -ed/-ing/-s )

Etymology: Middle English tonen, from tone (II)

transitive verb


a. obsolete : to sound with a musical quality

b. : to utter with a particular or affected tone : intone

2. : to give a particular intonation or inflection to

fear toned his voice


a. : to impart tone to : improve or raise the quality of : strengthen

exercise toned his muscles

— used often with up

prescribed a medicine to tone up the system

b. : to reduce the emphatic or glaring quality of : make harmonious in color, appearance, or sound : soften , mellow — used usually with down

tone down clashing colors with brown tints

advancing years had toned down his rash impulsiveness

c. : to change by treatment the tone or color of : modify in color ; specifically : to change the normal silver image of (a print, transparency, or lantern slide) into a colored image either by treatment with a solution containing some inorganic salt or by mordanting and dyeing

intransitive verb


a. : to assume a harmonious or pleasing color quality or tint

the shingles will tone with age and weathering

— used often with down

his clothes have toned down since his marriage

b. of a photographic image : to undergo a chemical reaction resulting in a change in color

the average print will tone in about 15 minutes — Jack Wright

2. : to blend with respect to tone or color quality : harmonize in color

the rug tones with the woodwork

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.