Definition of overture in English:



  • 1An orchestral piece at the beginning of an opera, play, etc.

    ‘the overture to Mozart's ‘Don Giovanni’’
    ‘Overture and Incidental Music for ‘A Midsummer Night's Dream’’
    • ‘The trio's third movement is a scherzo, full of fleeting and magical tunes very reminiscent of the Midsummer's Night Dream overture, a piece that Mendelssohn wrote when he was just 17.’
    • ‘It blasts away for openers - not for the first time - with the overture from Rossini's otherwise neglected opera The Thieving Magpie.’
    • ‘He spent more time with the orchestra, with the overture in the beginning of the show than the whole block of the show.’
    • ‘The adaptation of music for a medium different from that for which it was originally composed, for example the recasting of a song as a piano piece, or of an orchestral overture as an organ piece.’
    • ‘The playing of the woodwind section at the beginning of the overture was well balanced and finely tuned, revealing the experience and ability of the players.’
    prelude, introduction, opening, introductory movement, voluntary
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 An independent orchestral composition in one movement.
      ‘Tchaikovsky's ‘1812 Overture’’
      • ‘Tchaikovsky composed his most famous overture to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Russia's victory over Napoleon's French army in 1812.’
      • ‘A familiar Rossini overture (The Silken Ladder) presented that composer's usual challenges, which were tackled with precision.’
      • ‘Some of the most popular classical pieces comprise the final week's performances with Beethoven's overtures and Rachmaninov's piano concertos always attracting a wide audience.’
      • ‘Like Wagner's overture, this movement is a Romantic ode to Classical counterpoint, and one at times seems to hear actual Wagner themes peeking out from behind the curtain.’
      • ‘The Saint-Saëns overture is an appealing rarity, recorded at one of Munch's first sessions in Boston.’
  • 2An introduction to something more substantial.

    ‘the talks were no more than an overture to a long debate’
    • ‘Those complex overtures done with, I followed up all gung-ho with an enquiry as to when the piece was required.’
    • ‘As a result, the government's purely economic reforms lacked boldness after this dramatic overture.’
    • ‘As in all those movies, the demonstration is an overture to how that newly introduced power will explode narrative, characters, bodies.’
    • ‘Its overture is taken up with the analogy between the king of the nation and the father of the nuclear family that is beginning to supersede the extended family of earlier centuries.’
    preliminary, prelude, curtain-raiser, introduction, lead-in, precursor, forerunner, harbinger, herald, start, beginning
    View synonyms
  • 3usually overturesAn approach or proposal made to someone with the aim of opening negotiations or establishing a relationship.

    ‘he began making overtures to British merchant banks’
    • ‘Yet Havana's overtures for friendlier relations have been repeatedly rebuffed by successive administrations in Washington.’
    • ‘Teresa, however, evidently, declined such overtures.’
    • ‘Recent overtures by extremist groups to renounce violence and discuss issues provides a window of opportunity to redress old wrongs.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, another ‘sport’ is making overtures to join the Olympics.’
    • ‘You can express your feelings, disclose plans, make overtures or offer opportunities.’
    • ‘So long has he is steeped in his loneliness, he's immune to friendly overtures.’
    • ‘Presumably, a few acid attacks are sequel to frustration at rejection of sexual overtures.’
    • ‘He is confident that rival operators will listen to his overtures and work with him to establish a hub in Scotland.’
    • ‘Virtually all wives had one, and probably many, opportunities to comply with or reject an unwanted sexual overture.’
    • ‘Her young daughter is soon making overtures to the man, who wants to rob the women blind.’
    • ‘Yet, we do hear of British aristocrats making overtures to Rome, and even dedicating offerings on the Capitol of the world's pre-eminent city.’
    • ‘They are regularly approached by potential suitors but have resisted overtures so far.’
    • ‘I tell you, I'd love to know what she'll do over her eighteenth birthday, because I shall certainly not make any overtures to resume our former relationships, and I can't see her doing so.’
    • ‘You aren't worth it, and the friendly overtures of others come as a justified reproach.’
    • ‘Telekom had frozen his wages since the ban but were making overtures to him about renewing his contract when the current one finished at the end of this year.’
    • ‘But if two or three overtures are rejected, move on.’
    • ‘The local tributary rulers were deposed because they refused to pay their dues, and the ruler of Gilan was making overtures to the Ottomans.’
    • ‘The president is making overtures to Mexican immigrants and planning a manned mission to Mars.’
    • ‘Diplomatic overtures are also being made to France, Canada and Japan as well as to ASEAN countries.’
    • ‘The sensitive Druid launched deep into thought, shrewdly observing the the hazel-eyed man making overtures to the daughter of Cobham.’
    opening move, conciliatory move, move, approach, advances, feeler, signal, proposal, proposition, pass, offer, tender, suggestion
    View synonyms


Late Middle English (in the sense ‘aperture’): from Old French, from Latin apertura ‘aperture’.