Meaning of “tone” in the English Dictionary

"tone" in English

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uk /təʊn/ us /toʊn/


B2 [ U ] a quality in the voice that expresses the speaker's feelings or thoughts, often towards the person being spoken to:

I tried to use a sympathetic tone of voice.
Don't speak to me in that tone of voice (= angrily), young lady!
It wasn't so much what she said that annoyed me - it was her tone.
tones [ plural ] literary

the quality of someone's voice:

She recounted the story to me in shocked tones (= in a shocked voice).
I could hear the low tones of my parents talking in the next room.
For more than half a century, the reassuring tones of BBC newscasters have informed British television viewers about world events.

[ U ] specialized phonetics a change in how high or low the voice is that can change the meaning of a word or sentence

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tone noun (GENERAL MOOD)

C2 [ S ] the general mood or main qualities of something:

I didn't like the jokey tone of the article - I thought it was inappropriate.
Trust you to lower the tone of the evening by telling disgusting jokes, Mark!
Both candidates need to raise the tone of the campaign, as the electorate is tired of negative campaigning.
He was in a very bad mood when he arrived, and that set the tone for the whole meeting.

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toneverb [ T ]

uk /təʊn/ us /toʊn/ also tone up

(Definition of “tone” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"tone" in American English

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us /toʊn/


[ U ] a quality in the voice, esp. one that expresses the speaker’s feelings, often toward the person being addressed:

His tone was apologetic.

tone noun (MOOD)

[ U ] the mood or general feeling of something:

The tone of his remarks was confident and reassuring.

literature [ U ] The tone of a piece of writing expresses the writer's attitude toward the subject or the reader:

The angry tone of this essay reveals her feelings about the war.

tone noun (SOUND)

[ C usually sing ] a musical, mechanical, or voice sound on one note:

If you wish to leave a message, please wait until after the tone.


[ C/U ] music A tone is also a step .

tone noun (FIRM QUALITY)

[ U ] (esp. of muscles) the quality of being healthy and firm:

Swimming helps to develop good muscle tone.

tone noun (COLOR)

(Definition of “tone” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"tone" in Business English

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tonenoun [ S ]


an electronic sound that you hear on a phone line:

Please leave your message after the tone.
a busy tone

US also the busy tone, UK also an engaged tone an electronic sound when you call a phone number that tells you the person you are calling is already using the phone for another call:

I've tried calling her several times but I keep on getting a busy tone.

(Definition of “tone” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)