Definition of timbre in English:



  • 1The character or quality of a musical sound or voice as distinct from its pitch and intensity.

    ‘trumpet mutes with different timbres’
    mass noun ‘a voice high in pitch but rich in timbre’
    • ‘How did these women match their pitch, vibrato, and timbres with such precision?’
    • ‘The plainchant was delivered faultlessly, and gave a flavour of the complementary timbres of the male voices.’
    • ‘The difference between string timbres and percussion timbres is intentionally blunted here.’
    • ‘Different composers describe perceiving different colours with different keys, instrumental timbres, or harmonic structures.’
    • ‘This changes both the timbres and the chords that are available to the violinist.’
    tone, sound, sound quality, voice, voice quality, colour, tone colour, tonality, resonance, ring
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1mass noun The distinctive quality or character of someone or something.
      ‘you must demonstrate your moral timbre as a human being’
      • ‘If you seem to lack presidential timbre, you will likely feel frozen out.’
      • ‘Maybe it's this lack of awareness about the moral timbre of what he writes and says that causes Corn to be so upset about my description of his book as not unsympathetic to Shackley.’
      • ‘In the wake of the politics of the late 1990s, Americans may be sensitive to moral timbre.’
      • ‘His work continues to present a double vision, one touched by both calamity and glee, and whose self-consciously public language underscores its highly personal timbre.’
      • ‘But in Britain, the revolution is of an altogether more polite timbre: it's a revolution in taste.’


Mid 19th century: from French, from medieval Greek timbanon, from Greek tumpanon ‘drum’.