Definition of inflection in English:


(British inflexion)


  • 1Grammar
    A change in the form of a word (typically the ending) to express a grammatical function or attribute such as tense, mood, person, number, case, and gender.

    ‘a set of word forms differing only in respect of inflections’
    • ‘To learn the languages with inversions, it is enough to know the words and their inflections; to learn the French language, we must also retain the word order.’
    • ‘A set of verb forms or inflections used to indicate the speaker's attitude toward the factuality or likelihood of the action or condition expressed.’
    • ‘In many hymns (but not all) we have substituted second person plural pronouns and verbal inflections for second person singular ones, but only where this leaves the poetic and rhyming schemes of the hymns unaltered.’
    • ‘There are inflexions for number and tense, the vocabulary is Latin or Germanic for the most part, with all the baggage those words bring with them.’
    • ‘There are also inflections marking gender, number, and tense.’
    conjugation, declension
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1[mass noun]The process or practice of inflecting words.
      • ‘Spanish uses word order, rather than noun and pronoun inflection, to encode meaning.’
      • ‘But what we do in English is shift the subordinate clause verb into preterite inflection (had blue eyes instead of has blue eyes) as if to respect the choice of tense in the main clause.’
      • ‘The fluidity of Polish syntax, due to inflection, makes possible a highly complex structure which, some Polish critics suspect, prevented Sep from attaining a wide readership in his time: he was too difficult.’
      • ‘In sentences, inflection for case allows a certain freedom of word order, more or less as in Latin.’
      • ‘One can add inflection to specific words to make the final sentence sound more natural.’
  • 2[mass noun] The modulation of intonation or pitch in the voice.

    ‘she spoke slowly and without inflection’
    [count noun] ‘the variety of his vocal inflections’
    • ‘If you see him live, every word, every inflection, every facial expression, is perfect.’
    • ‘Furthermore, appealing to the use of a word may capture its direct meaning but leave untouched meanings that manifest themselves in the tone or inflection with which the word is used.’
    • ‘There was no inflection in her voice, and no particular emphasis on the title, but I marked the familiar way he addressed her and the formal manner in which she responded.’
    • ‘Katherine spoke softly, sometimes hesitantly and sometimes in a rush, with a great deal more emotional inflection than the voice she uses when acting the cool professional.’
    • ‘On the other hand, they were superb ‘readers’ of voices, intonation, inflection, fear, evasion, demand.’
    • ‘In such services, both the minister and the congregation routinely use voice rhythm and vocal inflection to convey meaning.’
    • ‘There was absolutely no inflection in his voice.’
    • ‘Of these, there are two: the rising inflection and falling inflection.’
    • ‘While Caan does a fairly credible job with the accent, voice inflection, and mannerisms, I had a difficult time with his being cast in this role.’
    • ‘Sometimes, I hate the lack of inflection in the written word.’
    • ‘One thing hits you quickly: the voice acting is horrendous; the characters seemingly have no voice inflection, which leads to a monotonous game.’
    • ‘The missing link is the prosody, the patterns of stress, inflection, and intonation in a language.’
    • ‘The mocking inflexion in Lonnie's voice reminded Loren chillingly of someone else.’
    • ‘There was no inflection to her voice as she concluded, ‘You just wait.’’
    • ‘Thirty seconds later, I told him I was ‘in trouble’ and needed to get down (with a lot more inflection in my voice than I can write here).’
    • ‘Good listening habits involve not only hearing what someone says, but being sensitive to such nonverbal clues as voice inflection, facial expressions, and gestures.’
    • ‘Radio counts on voice inflection and an interesting speaker’
    • ‘Through a blend of facial expression, voice inflection, and halting speech, Hagman handles it with authority and believability.’
    • ‘The written interview misses the slow rhythm of Brian's voice and emotional inflection - it is a long read but hopefully worth it…’
    • ‘There is a decided effort and highly noticeable inflection in the words you speak.’
    stress, cadence, rhythm, accentuation, intonation, emphasis, modulation, metre, measure, rise and fall, swing, lilt, beat, change of pitch, change of tone, change of timbre
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1The variation of the pitch of a musical note.
      • ‘The opening is played ‘okay’ but it has no accent, no inflection.’
      • ‘The second line became one of the most distinctive features of all New Orleans brass band parades and even of the music itself as the extra musical inflection became an intrinsic element of the Crescent City sound.’
      • ‘In the second period, Balada's music was very abstract and dramatic, without melodic inflection and with a heavy reliance on avant-garde effects.’
      • ‘A flat, natural, or sharp sign can be placed above it, to indicate a chromatic inflection of the upper note.’
      • ‘But he seemed ill at ease in Liszt's flamboyant Spanish Rhapsody, which in his hands wanted for inflection, contrast and affective intensity.’
  • 3Mathematics
    A change of curvature from convex to concave at a particular point on a curve.

    ‘the point of inflection of the bell-shaped curve’
    • ‘The thresholds for low and high CRI are located at the inflexion points of the curve, embracing about 80% of the genes.’
    • ‘However, the optimal cluster size depended on the point of inflection of the curve describing the relationship between female mating bias and cluster size.’
    • ‘But like the point of inflection on a line graph, the first species in any new lineage is only readily apparent after the fact.’
    • ‘With the parameters we use, this hysteresis covers a rather small range of velocities and only results in a small inflexion in the force-velocity curve.’
    • ‘The coordinates of the inflection point for each curve are indicated by the horizontal and vertical lines.’
    curving, curvature, bending, turning
    View synonyms


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘the action of bending inwards’): from Latin inflexio(n-), from the verb inflectere bend in, curve (see inflect).