Definition of tom-tom in US English:



  • 1A medium-sized cylindrical drum used in jazz bands, etc.

    • ‘Each time the teacher beats a tom-tom, a picture of a different animal is shown.’
    • ‘The snare drum takes precedence as the piano enters; tom-toms come in when the sax solo begins.’
    • ‘However, every time Rudolph turned his back, the band (in their usual mischievous way) would surreptitiously displace a tom-tom or a speaker, causing Roddy to become increasingly agitated.’
    • ‘One or more floor tom-toms followed and by 1940 the drum kit had reached its present form, though any number of peripheral instruments may be added by the player.’
    • ‘She batters her tom-toms at a tempo either ahead of or behind the guitars and vocals.’
    • ‘Then the piano comes in, plays a little vamp for two bars, is then joined by tom-toms for another two bars before the vocals come in.’
    • ‘The opening song marches back and forth, back and forth on the tom-toms, while guitar chords are smacked awake.’
    • ‘The piece, scored for four percussionists, is played by the group using a big array of gongs, tam-tams, tom-toms, suspended brake drums and so on, but is neither bombastic nor boring.’
    • ‘The basic track featured Lennon on acoustic guitar, his vocal and a tom-tom (all recorded onto one track), with Harrison playing a tamboura.’
    • ‘Suddenly he kneels down, places the remaining snare, cymbal, and tom-tom on the floor in a cluster, and begins to play his ‘broken’ drums, more interested in the set that he's created than in the one we bought.’
    • ‘He started the concert by drumming with his hands on a tom-tom, eventually progressing to the entire kit.’
    • ‘There's still no sign of synthesizers, but there are lots of tom-toms.’
    • ‘As for the drummer, suffice it to say he took it to another level with a much bigger kit, flying around the tom-toms and engaging in fierce double-bass song finales.’
    1. 1.1 A drum beaten with the hands, associated with North American Indian, African, or Eastern cultures.
      • ‘He struggled to walk onto the stage but played flute, tenor and alto sax, police whistle, African tom-toms and cow-bell with enviable vigour and verve.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, water is blowing in through the tepee's door, drenching the tom-toms and blankets.’
      • ‘They even held a drumming session teaching youngsters how to play the tom-tom and bongos.’
      • ‘She reinforces this hackneyed portrait by evoking African tom-toms.’
      • ‘Indian ceremonies, tom-toms, cheers, costumes, and painted faces may be part of their traditions.’
      • ‘Thai cultural activities are also part of the program, and this includes learning musical instruments and tom-toms.’
      • ‘We went to a fair-trade import store and bought him a handmade tom-tom made of wood and hide with a lovely wooden drumstick.’


Late 17th century: from Hindi ṭam ṭam, Telugu ṭamaṭama, of imitative origin.



/ˈtɑm ˌtɑm//ˈtäm ˌtäm/