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[oh-ver-tohn] /ˈoʊ vərˌtoʊn/
Music. an acoustical frequency that is higher in frequency than the fundamental.
an additional, usually subsidiary and implicit meaning or quality:
an aesthetic theory with definite political overtones.
Origin of overtone
1865-70; translation of German Oberton. See over-, tone
2. insinuation, suggestion, intimation, hint. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for overtone
Historical Examples
  • The string, considered as halved by one node, gives the first overtone, or octave of the fundamental.

    How it Works Archibald Williams
  • The second overtone requires three nodes, as in Fig. 137, 3.

    How it Works Archibald Williams
  • When the first overtone is sounded the column divides itself into two vibrating parts.

    How it Works Archibald Williams
  • Kenmore, in the light of its past, sounds an overtone of romance.

    Historic Fredericksburg John T. Goolrick
  • “The pineapple ice is the twelfth overtone,” replied Mr. Dubbe.

    The So-called Human Race Bert Leston Taylor
  • Their cooing notes are well known—a high-pitched "overtone," followed by several long bell-toned notes.

  • In any overtone, the number of the parts or vibrating segments of the string is one more than the number of the overtone.

    Physics Willis Eugene Tower
  • Accordingly, if a stopped pipe gives as its fundamental the note C, its first overtone will be the fifth above the octave or G'.

    Hertzian Wave Wireless Telegraphy John Ambrose Fleming
  • When the second overtone is blown (Fig. 136, 3) a third node forms.

    How it Works Archibald Williams
  • Whatever, by way of overtone, he may reveal of himself is implicit in his forms: symbolism and caricature are not in his way.

    Since Czanne Clive Bell
British Dictionary definitions for overtone


(often pl) additional meaning or nuance: overtones of despair
(music, acoustics) any of the tones, with the exception of the fundamental, that constitute a musical sound and contribute to its quality, each having a frequency that is a multiple of the fundamental frequency See also harmonic (sense 7), partial (sense 6)
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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Word Origin and History for overtone

1867, in literal sense, from over + tone (n.); a loan-translation of German Oberton, first used by German physicist Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz (1821-1894) as a contraction of Overpartialton "upper partial tone." Figurative sense of "subtle implication" is from 1890, first attested in writings of William James.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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overtone in Science
See under harmonic.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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