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[awf-kee, of-] /ˈɔfˈki, ˈɒf-/
deviating from the correct tone or pitch; out of tune.
Informal. somewhat irregular, abnormal, or incongruous.
Origin of off-key
1925-30 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for off-key
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • There was a rattle of drums and the blare of one or two off-key instruments from outside.

  • The thing in the middle now opened its mouth and made a noise that reminded Full of an off-key clarinet.

    The Enormous Room Horace Leonard Gold
  • I knew it was just about time for some kind of an off-key noise from you, you grouchy old leftover.

    At Good Old Siwash George Fitch
  • A woman played a wheezing organ while a man led the off-key singing.

    Clue of the Silken Ladder Mildred A. Wirt
  • Haberdasher did not fit in anywhere with Kitty's projects; it was off-key, a jarring note.

    The Voice in the Fog Harold MacGrath
  • From inside came the rare sound of water splashing, mixed with a wheezing, off-key caterwauling.

    Police Your Planet Lester del Rey
Word Origin and History for off-key

1920, from off (adv.) + musical sense of key (n.1). Figurative sense is from 1943.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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