Definition of off-key in US English:

off-key

adverb & adjective

  • 1(of music or singing) not having the correct tone or pitch; out of tune.

    • ‘It was kind of neat to see four women all lined up singing, but the off-key harmonizing didn't grab me.’
    • ‘Once every candle burned brightly, an off-key chorus began to sing ‘Happy Birthday.’’
    • ‘They know what mood I am in from the music that I play on the radio and the off-key, wrong lyrics that I belt out.’
    • ‘But we sang along anyway, and there were no off-key notes or minor chords, not even from Mama, who quite simply could not carry a tune.’
    • ‘It is like hearing lovely melodies sung off-key.’
    • ‘A chorus of giggles promptly followed the off-key ditty.’
    • ‘The off-key singing of the congregations at Church and the reels and jigs of the Connecticut fiddle players enchanted him.’
    • ‘If the background music was distinctly off-key, so too were far too many aspects of the meal.’
    • ‘He had on his headset and sang along in his off-key fashion.’
    • ‘Does he see how I look down my nose at the enthusiastic choir member who sings off-key?’
    • ‘A few stand watching a brave soul with a karaoke machine belt out an off-key tune.’
    • ‘He multi-tracks the vocals on this song and the off-key harmonics of his offbeat voice work brilliantly.’
    • ‘Add off-key electronic music, and you begin to have some idea of how annoying this is.’
    • ‘He wouldn't go to sleep and I'd just go from one song to the next in this flat, off-key voice.’
    • ‘We don't see that playing out of tune or singing off-key is revolutionary.’
    • ‘With that he turned up the radio to an old eighties rock song, and we started our off-key duet in very loud voices.’
    • ‘Then suddenly, in a slightly hoarse and off-key voice, he sang the lullaby that Mom used to sing to me.’
    • ‘Why are the gospel tunes in the soundtrack so annoyingly off-key and out of synch?’
    • ‘The brass band plays off-key.’
    • ‘She bade me goodnight and walked away, swaying only slightly, and humming an off-key tune under her breath.’
    out of tune, flat, tuneless, unmusical, unmelodic, discordant, dissonant, unharmonious
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    1. 1.1 Not in accordance with what is appropriate or correct in the circumstances.
      as adjective ‘some of the cinematic effects are distractingly off-key’
      • ‘This bill is off-key, out of tune, and even if the Labour Government flatly denies it, its shrill crescendos of fortissimo make no difference to the fact that it is prescribing State control.’
      • ‘She croaks, squeaks, howls, and whines her way through the role, nearly always off-key and most horrid.’
      • ‘The actor's performance is horridly off-key - his screaming antics would be more appropriate for a cartoon villain.’
      incongruous, inappropriate, unsuitable, discordant, out of place, out of keeping, jarring, dissonant, inharmonious
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Pronunciation

off-key

/ˈɔf ˈˌki/