Definition of polyphonic in US English:



  • 1Producing many sounds simultaneously; many-voiced.

    ‘a 64-voice polyphonic sound module’
    • ‘The polyphonic string sound is something of a phenomenon but what is it all about?’
    • ‘Sound quality is also excellent, with a three-voice polyphonic speaker, so the supplied ringtones sound great.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The phone has what's known as polyphonic sound, which means it has multiple ‘voices’ or tones.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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 fissure is expressed by Glatshteyn's use of a polyphonic narrative style in which the autobiographical voice is muted while other voices predominate.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Meanings collide, conflict, merge, and diverge in the continuous multi-logic or polyphonic universe of the novel.’
    • ‘The way forward is to view texts as speaking with polyphonic voices and performing multiple speech actions.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The polyphonic sounds are for compatible Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola, NEC, Panasonic, Sharp and Siemens models and you need WAP to download them.’
    • ‘The device contains 8MB of RAM, a greyscale screen and a 16-channel polyphonic sound system.’
    • ‘This is a very respectable, 64-voice polyphonic synth featuring four oscillators.’
    • ‘The polyphonic voices of the poem remind us at every turn that all of these larger issues concern a pervasive discomfort with the body.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    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
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Attwood attests that a partiality for the polyphonic music of JS Bach motivated Mozart to supplement his fortepiano with a pedal board.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The publication of polyphonic music, and particularly the Latin motets that Byrd insisted that East print, was not especially profitable.’
      • ‘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.’
    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.’
      • ‘Using two iterations, I had nine polyphonic instruments up and running, with polyphony occasionally spilling over 100 notes simultaneously.’
      • ‘The harp becomes the polyphonic instrument of choice as will be continually explained.’


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