Definition of harmonic in US English:



  • 1Music
    Relating to or characterized by musical harmony.

    ‘a basic four-chord harmonic sequence’
    • ‘The basic harmonic and melodic language is not complex and often typical of late nineteenth/early twentieth century salon music.’
    • ‘Debussy's supple rhythms and rich harmonic language, influenced in part by the ancient music of the Far East, became the ideal vehicle for painting a mood, no matter how complex or ephemeral.’
    • ‘You knew how to find just the right dreamlike quality for the music, whose harmonic language is neither tonal, nor modal, nor truly chromatic, but a little of all three at the same time.’
    • ‘The CD is almost exclusively built on funk grooves and avoids the harmonic and melodic language of bebop.’
    • ‘Like Michael Brecker, he's absorbed a lot of Coltrane but his harmonic language draws as much from funk and soul as much as jazz.’
    1. 1.1 Relating to or denoting a harmonic or harmonics.
      • ‘If nothing else, this shows how thoroughly Rutkowski has absorbed Gershwin's melodic, harmonic, and keyboard habits.’
      • ‘The sonata is a major work that combines the young composer's acerbic wit and uncompromising harmonic astringency with a lyrical bent and cross-cultural echoes of Far Eastern musical modes.’
      • ‘In both the first and third movements I was often reminded of the toccata-like sections of Prokofiev's sonatas and concertos, though Lees' melodic and harmonic approaches are quite different.’
      • ‘Their music, generally set for unaccompanied four-voice chorus, lacks the melodic and harmonic suavity of European music of the time.’
      • ‘However, Koeluh is many steps behind Haydn in harmonic invention and melodic inspiration.’
      tuneful, melodious, melodic, sweet-sounding, pleasant-sounding, sweet-toned, mellifluous, dulcet, lyrical
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  • 2Mathematics
    Relating to a harmonic progression.

    • ‘Beurling worked on the theory of generalized functions, differential equations, harmonic analysis, Dirichlet series and potential theory.’
    • ‘In addition to his work on set theory, Cohen has worked on differential equations and harmonic analysis.’
    • ‘It's true that there are other kinds of mean - geometric mean, harmonic mean, quadratic mean and so on.’
    • ‘Moreover, it led me very directly to the periodogram, and to the study of forms of harmonic analysis more general than the classical Fourier series and Fourier integral.’
    • ‘It was not just to these areas that he contributed but, even more importantly, his work brought out fundamental relationships between the areas when he studied harmonic analysis on topological groups and characteristic classes.’
    1. 2.1Physics Relating to component frequencies of a complex oscillation or wave.
      • ‘Electromagnetic homing system using MWD and current having a fundamental wave component and an even harmonic wave component being injected at a target well’
      • ‘Thus, infrared photons at a I Am fundamental wavelength would produce a second harmonic signal in the green at 0.5 Am.’
      • ‘His work in harmonic analysis has application in the theory of waves and vibrations.’
      • ‘The experiments confirmed that the upper harmonic components appear and exhibit distinct resonant peaks.’
      • ‘According to classical electromagnetic theory, a charge rotating with a simple harmonic frequency should emit electromagnetic radiation of the same frequency.’
  • 3Astrology
    Using or produced by the application of a harmonic.

    ‘harmonic charts’
    • ‘In your own 5th harmonic chart you have two very close conjunctions, and some fairly close oppositions.’
    • ‘But apparently - I've discussed this with some western astrologers - for the ninth harmonic you multiply it by nine, and divide it.’
    • ‘Kepler's new aspects were based upon harmonic theory and grounded in empirical observation of astrological effects.’
    • ‘The fourth harmonic chart, indicating how he will manifest in worldly affairs, shows a striking T-square: Pluto in opposition to a Venus-Neptune conjunction, squared by Mars.’
    • ‘Even the untrained eye can easily discern the remarkable pattern in this chart, which is being called the harmonic concordance.’


  • 1Music
    An overtone accompanying a fundamental tone at a fixed interval, produced by vibration of a string, column of air, etc. in an exact fraction of its length.

    • ‘The harmonics are secondary notes produced when an instrument is played, with frequencies that are multiples of the fundamental note frequency.’
    • ‘Freya's long, slow theme in the central movement was sensual and pure, ending first with harmonics above low chords in the orchestra, then with a long high note, held by the soloist and taken up by the orchestra.’
    • ‘It is characteristic of the stretched string that the second harmonic has a frequency twice that of the fundamental; the third harmonic has a frequency three times that of the fundamental; and so forth.’
    • ‘In the concert hall and the recording studio the utmost accuracy is required; with a shorter tube, the same pitches are produced as lower numbers of the harmonic series, where the intervals between harmonics are greater.’
    • ‘The wavelength of the second harmonic is the length of the string.’
    1. 1.1 A note produced on a musical instrument as an overtone, e.g. by lightly touching a string while sounding it.
      • ‘In György Ligeti's concerto, completed in 1992, the brass are asked to play in natural harmonics, thereby producing notes not included in the equal-tempered scale.’
      • ‘A key change to D major heralds solo passages for wind and piano, the Stravinskian texture of which is accentuated by the accompanying violin harmonics.’
      • ‘In contrast, the gorgeous ‘Waltz with Heating’ is a performance of simple, restrained beauty built around bell like harmonics and rippling chords.’
      • ‘But soon Courtois erupts into an improvised solo of dark chords punctuating sweeping legato lines, while Poulsen releases harmonics and dissonances behind him.’
      • ‘Daughter In The House Of Fools and Mikazuki relying on a more rhythmic and harmonic propulsion utilising a disjointed funk and Eastern sounding harmonics respectively.’
  • 2Physics
    A component frequency of an oscillation or wave.

    • ‘By integrating this source with a delay line and a broadband, grazing-incidence toroidal mirror, the researchers generated odd phase-locked harmonics of the laser frequency up to very high orders.’
    • ‘For example, the Earth's magnetic field has a harmonic related to the Moon's daily variations, and also many other harmonics.’
    • ‘For example, spurious harmonics might result if pulses are transmitted in a fixed repetition modulation, or if too many pulses are sent out during a fixed interval of time.’
    • ‘The square wave represents a sum of sinusoidal frequencies at odd harmonics of the base frequency, the amplitude of which is highest for the base frequency and decreases as the frequency increases.’
    • ‘They may not be able to handle the higher frequency harmonics present in the sharply truncated sine wave output from a lamp module or wall switch.’
  • 3Astrology
    A division of the zodiacal circle by a specified number, used in the interpretation of a birth chart.

    • ‘If you look at a chart and think: ‘Oh, yes, the traditional method shows… but then midpoints and harmonics show… and then Vedic shows…,’ you will not get very far.’
    • ‘The idea that our list of aspects can be extended to include such angles is not new, although the modern technique of harmonics has formalized it.’
    • ‘You should know that harmonic symmetry demands a second great circle meridian to create sunup and sundown corner quadrants’
    • ‘I find this house system the most revealing, because each house is a harmonic of the first house of the Self.’
    • ‘Are you suggesting that harmonics, or any other astrological technique, is a life-denying fiction?’


Late 16th century (in the sense ‘relating to music, musical’): via Latin from Greek harmonikos, from harmonia (see harmony).