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[puh-lif-uh-nee] /pəˈlɪf ə ni/
Music. polyphonic composition; counterpoint.
Phonetics. representation of different sounds by the same letter or symbol.
Origin of polyphony
1820-30; < Greek polyphōnía variety of tones. See poly-, -phony
Related forms
polyphonous, adjective
polyphonously, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for polyphony
  • Describes a model that emphasizes the commonalities of music from medieval polyphony to contemporary rock.
  • The polyphony of voices has dwindled to a private conversation between one or two people.
  • His choreography frequently uses dance versions of complex polyphony.
  • When two or three characters talked at once, the polyphony simply canceled out the meaning of each individual's words.
British Dictionary definitions for polyphony


noun (pl) -nies
polyphonic style of composition or a piece of music utilizing it
the use of polyphones in a writing system
Derived Forms
polyphonous, adjective
polyphonously, adverb
Word Origin
C19: from Greek poluphōnia diversity of tones, from poly- + phōnē speech, sound
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for polyphony

1828, "multiplicity of sounds," from Greek polyphonia "variety of sounds," from polyphonos "having many sounds or voices," from polys "many" (see poly-) + phone "voice, sound" (see fame (n.)). The meaning "counterpoint" (1864) is perhaps a back-formation from the adjective.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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