Definition of polyphonic in US English:



  • 1Producing many sounds simultaneously; many-voiced.

    ‘a 64-voice polyphonic sound module’
    • ‘Moreover, Bakhtin argues that in Dostoevsky's polyphonic novels the author is only an unprivileged voice taking part in his own internal dialogue, where his conflicting ideas are incarnated by various characters.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, on the consumer side, MIDP now supports advanced phone features such as 3D graphics, sprites and polyphonic sound, reinforcing the technology's credentials as an emerging gaming platform.’
    • ‘This is a very respectable, 64-voice polyphonic synth featuring four oscillators.’
    • ‘The Z600 supports 32-voice polyphonic ringtones and sounds.’
    • ‘And in a Bakhtinian mode, she uses, in her more recent writings, polyphonic voices intermingling as an interface that brings out various jostling ideologies from various levels of psyche and history.’
    • ‘The device contains 8MB of RAM, a greyscale screen and a 16-channel polyphonic sound system.’
    • ‘The way forward is to view texts as speaking with polyphonic voices and performing multiple speech actions.’
    • ‘The polyphonic voices of the poem remind us at every turn that all of these larger issues concern a pervasive discomfort with the body.’
    • ‘The polyphonic sounds are for compatible Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola, NEC, Panasonic, Sharp and Siemens models and you need WAP to download them.’
    • ‘Meanings collide, conflict, merge, and diverge in the continuous multi-logic or polyphonic universe of the novel.’
    • ‘This fissure is expressed by Glatshteyn's use of a polyphonic narrative style in which the autobiographical voice is muted while other voices predominate.’
    • ‘It didn't just have polyphonic sound, it had a colour screen, WAP, and was Java-enabled for downloadable games.’
    • ‘It has a 40-voice polyphonic sound system for ringtones, and operates on GSM and GPRS networks.’
    • ‘Attaining an ideal balance of voices in strictly polyphonic textures is one of the greatest challenges pianists face.’
    • ‘From the reader's point of view, this translation looks like a polyphonic swirl of voices.’
    • ‘Sound quality is also excellent, with a three-voice polyphonic speaker, so the supplied ringtones sound great.’
    • ‘By taking up the idea of common sense as something that by definition cannot be fully grasped, Nesbit's book eludes interpretation as a polyphonic murmur of the multiple voices of history.’
    • ‘The polyphonic string sound is something of a phenomenon but what is it all about?’
    • ‘The phone has what's known as polyphonic sound, which means it has multiple ‘voices’ or tones.’
    • ‘It may be stranger and more sublime to hear a polyphonic impression of George Michael's voice than to listen to the real thing one more time.’
    tuneful, melodious, melodic, sweet-sounding, pleasant-sounding, sweet-toned, mellifluous, dulcet, lyrical
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Music (especially of vocal music) in two or more parts each having a melody of its own; contrapuntal.
      Compare with homophonic
      • ‘It is polyphonic music at its most pure and silky, somehow lighter and more contemplative than many of the compositions of Buxtehude's more illustrious colleague, Johann Sebastian Bach.’
      • ‘Attwood attests that a partiality for the polyphonic music of JS Bach motivated Mozart to supplement his fortepiano with a pedal board.’
      • ‘When the Council of Trent inveighed against polyphonic music for sacred purposes, although the target of their arrows was Palestrina, they might just as well have been speaking of Gombert.’
      • ‘Take Johann Sebastian Bach's polyphonic masterpiece, The Art of the Fugue, add to it the modern technology of a computer-controlled piano, put it in the hands of a veteran concert pianist and this is the result.’
      • ‘The publication of polyphonic music, and particularly the Latin motets that Byrd insisted that East print, was not especially profitable.’
    2. 1.2Music (of an instrument) capable of producing more than one note at a time.
      • ‘The Storm Music Studio now comes with 13 virtual instruments and also includes the new Shadow virtual analog polyphonic synth.’
      • ‘The harp becomes the polyphonic instrument of choice as will be continually explained.’
      • ‘Using two iterations, I had nine polyphonic instruments up and running, with polyphony occasionally spilling over 100 notes simultaneously.’


Late 18th century: from Greek poluphōnos (from polu- ‘many’ + phōnē ‘voice, sound’) + -ic.