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[loh-kee] /ˈloʊˈki/
adjective, Also, low-keyed
of reduced intensity; restrained; understated.
(of a photograph) having chiefly dark tones, usually with little tonal contrast (distinguished from high-key).
verb (used with object), low-keyed, low-keying.
to make or attempt to make low-key:
to low-key the arms buildup.
Origin of low-key
1890-95 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for low-key
  • My bet is they will keep this as low-key as possible.
  • They turned him down, and things have continued to grow, even though until recently it's been a low-key operation.
  • Their advocacy of a low-key president seems close to a wish for the job to be done badly.
  • Print censorship is a bit more common, but still fairly low-key.
  • But these were low-key efforts compared with the programs to develop nuclear weapons.
  • Life remained low-key within the weekend retreat for decades: tennis and badminton by day, cookouts on the beach at night.
  • For customers on four wheels, the low-key neighborhood has ample street parking, so you don't have to feed pesky meters.
  • Too low-key for today's radio, which is desperately chasing a way to make easy money without putting on anything of quality.
British Dictionary definitions for low-key


having a low intensity or tone
restrained, subdued, or understated
(of a photograph, painting, etc) having a predominance of dark grey tones or dark colours with few highlights Compare high-key
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Slang definitions & phrases for low-key



Quiet; modest; unassertive: She is low-key but is happy to talk about things that Wayans doesn't do for himself (1965+)


To treat with little emphasis; play down: They were low-keying it because of the controversy (1960+)

[in adjective sense, a technical term in photography, ''with tones lying in the gray scale,'' found by 1907]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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