April 10, 2013
overtone (noun)
\OH-ver-tohn\ Hear it!
What does it mean?
: any of a series of higher tones related to and produced along with a base tone that make up the whole sound of a musical tone
How do you use it?
The cello teacher played a solo at the recital that was bold and full with rich overtones.
Are you a word wiz?

"Overtone" has developed another meaning since it was first used with the meaning above in the late 1800s. Which of the following do you think it is?

It was only a few years after "overtone" first entered the language in its musical sense that it came to be used figuratively to refer to an accompanying result, quality, or meaning—in other words, a suggestion of something. It's this meaning of "overtone" that you're likely to come across in books and articles that don't have to do with music. If chocolate, for example, has minty or fruity overtones, you can taste a little mint or fruit along with the chocolate flavor. A story or play has political or religious overtones if it includes or suggests ideas about politics or religion.
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