Definition of percussion in US English:



  • 1Musical instruments played by striking with the hand or with a handheld or pedal-operated stick or beater, or by shaking, including drums, cymbals, xylophones, gongs, bells, and rattles.

    as modifier ‘percussion instruments’
    ‘the percussion section’
    • ‘With chiming percussion to the fore, transparency and subtlety are the characteristics of the orchestration.’
    • ‘Use Latin American percussion when singing this lively song.’
    • ‘The percussion sounds like the sudden buzz of dragonfly wings.’
    • ‘The last song of the night was a loud one, complete with a fast tempo and pounding percussion.’
    • ‘The second one played saxophone and the third one played percussion, like her.’
    • ‘The band's greatest appeal is still their use of tribal percussion and experimentation with sounds from around the world.’
    • ‘The music, meanwhile, is especially good, with jaunty a cappella tunes featuring nonsense singing and vocal percussion.’
    • ‘The entire wind section - flutes and saxophones - were out to get the percussion section.’
    • ‘One feature of interest is a rhythmic chanting to a percussion accompaniment.’
    • ‘The song's detailed arrangement is fleshed out by electric piano, aquatic guitar lines, and exotic percussion.’
    • ‘Nigerian music is dependent on strong rhythms supplied by countless drums and percussion instruments.’
    • ‘The range of electronic sounds, live percussion and singing merged well.’
    • ‘The Adagio would probably do that if arranged for tuned percussion.’
    • ‘Initially, the tribal percussion and sometimes maudlin tone may not sit well.’
    • ‘The driver continued his singing and with his free hand added some percussion on the dashboard.’
    • ‘His music is decidedly eccentric and remarkably varied, from ambient drones to industrial noise to metallic percussion.’
    • ‘The ample percussion section punctuated the music's flow without overwhelming it.’
    • ‘The tunes remain but the clattering percussion and meandering vocals transport them to a whole other level.’
    • ‘Accompanied by orchestral percussion, the melodic instruments interweave solos and duets and leave a trail of scattered bells.’
    • ‘He specializes in West African percussion and will be playing with a few friends of his.’
  • 2The striking of one solid object with or against another with some degree of force.

    ‘the clattering percussion of objects striking the walls and the shutters’
    • ‘The electrical display with accompanying percussion was frequent and persistent.’
    • ‘These artifacts have been grouped with the Stage 5 material because it is uncertain whether they were removed by percussion or by pressure.’
    • ‘During drilling a hollow steel core barrel with an inner rod with pointed tip was hammered into the sand by percussion and hydraulic pressure.’
    • ‘We may leave aside bizarre examples whereby smell or impact, percussion, may have had some effect.’
    • ‘For pebbles and larger particles, surface textures, such as weathering pits and percussion fractures, provide important clues to particle history.’
    • ‘In particular, the supporters of energy/work rightly doubted its competence to deal with phenomena involving percussion and impact.’
    crash, bang, smash, clash, bump, thump, thwack, whack
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1Medicine The action of tapping a part of the body as part of a diagnosis.
      ‘the chest sounded dull on percussion’
      • ‘This involves four steps: observation, palpation, percussion, and auscultation.’
      • ‘Physical examination through percussion and palpation, however, would reveal more about the size of the liver than a flat film since the flat film only reveals one of the apecies.’
      • ‘Physical examination revealed decreased breath sounds and dullness to percussion over the right lower lung.’
      • ‘Physical examination revealed dullness to percussion and decreased breath sounds at both bases.’
      • ‘On examination the only abnormality was a little bilateral basal dullness to percussion accompanied by a decrease in vocal resonance.’


Late Middle English: from Latin percussio(n-), from the verb percutere ‘to strike forcibly’ (see percuss).