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[tohn-l] /ˈtoʊn l/
adjective, Music.
pertaining to or having tonality.
Origin of tonal
1770-80; < Medieval Latin tonālis. See tone, -al1
Related forms
tonally, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for tonal
  • As the exposition continues, the second voice enters providing a tonal answer to the earlier, typically dominant question.
  • They got two guitars made with wood from the same trees so they would have the same tonal construct from the start.
  • Dogs are able to imitate humans as well as they do because they pick up on the differences in our tonal patterns.
  • Music is really tonal mathematical equations which our brains recognize as patterns.
  • The show peaked for less than an hour, but its tonal themes lingered longer.
  • Blocks of color, either the same hue or different ones of about equal tonal value, can lend depth.
  • Not all tonal language speakers have absolute pitch, and not all absolute pitch possessors speak tonal languages.
  • Then over- or underexpose the shot until it has the tonal value you're going for.
  • All these distinctions are apparent not in the number or length of the barks but in their tonal qualities.
  • The enormous telescreen flashed into life, accompanied by the percussive sounds of a-tonal music, dark and brooding.
British Dictionary definitions for tonal


of or relating to tone
of, relating to, or utilizing the diatonic system; having an established key Compare atonal
  1. (of an answer in a fugue) not having the same melodic intervals as the subject, so as to remain in the original key
  2. denoting a fugue as having such an answer Compare real1 (sense 11)
Derived Forms
tonally, adverb
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 tonal

1776; see from tone + -al (1).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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