Get the details behind our redesign


[tim-puh-nuh m] /ˈtɪm pə nəm/
noun, plural tympanums, tympana
[tim-puh-nuh] /ˈtɪm pə nə/ (Show IPA)
Anatomy, Zoology.
  1. middle ear.
  2. tympanic membrane.
  1. the recessed, usually triangular space enclosed between the horizontal and sloping cornices of a pediment, often decorated with sculpture.
  2. a similar space between an arch and the horizontal head of a door or window below.
Electricity. the diaphragm of a telephone.
a drum or similar instrument.
the stretched membrane forming a drumhead.
1610-20; < Latin < Greek týmpanon drum, akin to týptein to beat, strike Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source
Examples for tympanum
  • The top third was finished with a jarring pointed blind arch set in the tympanum.
  • Doorframes might whirl up into a tympanum of wood or gilt copper repoussé, richly carved with deities and creatures.
  • The tympanum is a round circle located on the side of the head near the eye, and in males it is much larger than the eye.
  • They are brown to pink in color and are characterized by a dark mask extending from the eye backwards across the tympanum.
  • The portico's entablature features a frieze with arched cutouts and its tympanum boasts a circular window with floral tracery.
  • Males have a tympanum that is larger than their eyes and a yellow throat.
  • The center of the tympanum usually has a distinct white spot.
  • The tympanum of both facades of the central block contain a large lunette window.
  • The tympanum of the north entry is granite, with a small, paneled door beneath it.
  • The pedimented attic area features a raking cornice with a raised triangular panel in the tympanum.
British Dictionary definitions for tympanum


noun (pl) -nums, -na (-nə)
  1. the cavity of the middle ear
  2. another name for tympanic membrane
any diaphragm resembling that in the middle ear in function
(architect) Also called tympan
  1. the recessed space bounded by the cornices of a pediment, esp one that is triangular in shape and ornamented
  2. the recessed space bounded by an arch and the lintel of a doorway or window below it
(music) a tympan or drum
a scoop wheel for raising water
Word Origin
C17: from Latin, from Greek tumpanon drum; related to Greek tuptein to beat
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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for tympanum
"drum of the ear," 1619, from M.L. tympanum, introduced in this sense by It. anatomist Gabriele Fallopio (1523-62), from L. tympanum "drum," from Gk. tympanon "a drum, panel of a door," from root of typtein "to beat, strike" (see type). Cf. O.E. timpan "drum, timbrel, tambourine," From L. tympanum. The modern meaning "a drum" is attested in Eng. from 1675. Tympanist "one who plays on a drum" is recorded from 1611; since mid-19c. specifically of players on kettledrums.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
tympanum in Medicine

tympanum tym·pa·num or tim·pa·num (tĭm'pə-nəm)
n. tym·pa·nums or tym·pa·na (-nə)

  1. See middle ear.

  2. See eardrum.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Cite This Source

Word of The Day

Difficulty index for tympanum

Few English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for tympanum

Scrabble Words With Friends

Quotes with tympanum