Music. the note or tone on which a key or system of tones is founded; the tonic.
the main idea or central principle of a speech, program, thought, action, etc.
the policy line to be followed, as by a party in a political campaign, that is set forth authoritatively in advance by an address or other formal announcement.
verb (used with object), keynoted, keynoting.
to announce the policy of (a political party, campaign, assembly, etc.); deliver a keynote address at: The governor will keynote the convention.
to serve as the keynote for.
Music. to give the keynote of.
verb (used without object), keynoted, keynoting.
to provide a keynote, especially a keynote address: He refused an invitation to keynote.

1755–65; key1 + note Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
keynote (ˈkiːˌnəʊt)
1.  a.  a central or determining principle in a speech, literary work, etc
 b.  (as modifier): a keynote speech
2.  the note upon which a scale or key is based; tonic
3.  to deliver a keynote address to (a political convention, etc)
4.  to outline (political issues, policy, etc) in or as in a keynote address

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

"lowest note of a musical scale, basis of a scale," 1776, from key (1) in sense of "musical scale" + note. Fig. sense of "leading idea" is from 1783; keynote address is 1905, Amer.Eng.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica


in music, the first note (degree) of any diatonic (e.g., major or minor) scale. It is the most important degree of the scale, serving as the focus for both melody and harmony. The term tonic may also refer to the tonic triad, the chord built in thirds from the tonic note (as C-E-G in C major). See also tonality.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Its keynote evidently is the ignorance of the immigrants.
He was the keynote speaker at the party's convention four years ago.
Beyond his academic work, he is a writer and keynote speaker.
King's address, the last one that day, was not billed as the keynote speech.
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