Definition of dissonance in English:



mass noun
  • 1Music
    Lack of harmony among musical notes.

    ‘an unusual degree of dissonance for such choral styles’
    count noun ‘a session full of jangling dissonances’
    • ‘Most of all, he shows a flair for matching the climaxes in the action with musical climaxes, using dissonance, the singer's virtuosity, or instrumental sonorities to create the sense of heightened emotion.’
    • ‘Abandoning the preconceived notions of tonality, and immersed within a musical state of dissonance, Coltrane's music became a communicative attempt at reaching a higher plane.’
    • ‘The music's density is intriguing, its rhythmic energy is compelling, and its harmonic complexity and dissonance is unusual for Reich.’
    • ‘This leaves the orchestra without a conductor, and a musical cacophony verging on dissonance.’
    • ‘Melancholic melody, harmony, subtle dissonance, throat vibrato and asymmetric rhythms make up their choral, ‘a cappella’ style.’
    • ‘This study used mild emotional stimuli, those associated with people's reactions to musical consonance versus dissonance.’
    • ‘Grainger also intensifies dissonance from the normal ‘melody’ instruments and draws an acidic sound from the winds, by emphasizing the double reeds.’
    • ‘As well as being finely crafted there is a unifying mood that reaches a peak in an expressive pedal point, sustained dissonance in the horns with side drum interjections, preparing for a pensive conclusion.’
    • ‘Around the turn of the century, composers began to experiment with atonality, dissonance and primitive rhythms.’
    • ‘Grimaud's ability to evoke both sensitive tonal shadings and clangorous dissonance made this movement an overwhelming experience.’
    • ‘Horowitz disdained the expressive and formal role of dissonance in this music, and attenuated the pugnaciousness and philosophical implications that this repertoire must above all convey.’
    • ‘A polarity is a relation between two broadly contrasting dynamic musical tendencies - say, between consonance and dissonance or continuity and discontinuity.’
    • ‘It's another example of how Ives associated dissonance and technical demands with masculinity, overcoming challenges, and prowess on the baseball field.’
    • ‘That is, the composer was liberated from the constraints of ‘voice leading rules’ whereby dissonance was subordinated to consonance in traditional harmony and counterpoint.’
    • ‘Penrose's device offers a way for anyone to see the harmony and dissonance that musicians can readily hear.’
    • ‘The first of these is the pedal, typically a sustaining or reiteration of a note in the bass while harmonies change above it, creating dissonance with the bass in the process.’
    • ‘The echoes that the harsh dissonance produced were cut short with the ongoing volume.’
    • ‘Or to put it the other way around, an elaborate contrapuntal texture with emancipated dissonance is a perfect metaphor for the urgent but ineffectual efforts that Pierrot is making.’
    • ‘Much of its punch derives from new-minted, surprising chord progressions and pungent dissonance, an idiom Barber carries to the end of the setting.’
    • ‘Tippett uses dissonance, but it sounds like music.’
    • ‘I really like watching his HK films with that dissonance in mind, looking for the different ways Chinese culture expects stories to be told.’
    inharmoniousness, discordance, atonality, cacophony
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1Lack of agreement or harmony between people or things.
      ‘the party faithful might be willing to put up with such dissonance among their candidates’
      • ‘I am the child of their ancestral dissonance with all its contrariness and overlappings.’
      • ‘Does this dissonance between politicians and voters matter?’
      • ‘Yet it might end up in increasing political dissonance between continental Europe on one side and England and the US on the other.’
      • ‘Morrison and MacLachlan play their dissonance not for guffaws but for rather rueful observational comedy.’
      • ‘It is based upon the belief that conflict and social dissonance are a product of the dialectical interplay of unequal relations in any community based in a bureaucratic regime.’
      • ‘His moments of desperate frustration lend realistic dissonance to their relationship.’
      • ‘I regret that I have to strike a little note of dissonance in this otherwise unanimous debate.’
      incongruity, disparity, discrepancy, disagreement, tension
      View synonyms


Late Middle English from Old French, from late Latin dissonantia, from Latin dissonant- ‘disagreeing in sound’, from the verb dissonare.