from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Unable to distinguish differences in musical pitch.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Unable to clearly distinguish the difference in pitch between different notes.
  • adj. Having little appreciation of music, whether or not as a result of (1).

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. unable to appreciate music


Sorry, no etymologies found.



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  • The official definitions above do not include the sense of "an inappropriate response to a situation which does not take into account how that response will look in that particular context or in the bigger picture."

    Examples of tone-deaf responses by politicians to the Charleston shooting here:

    (trigger warning: references to gun violence)

    September 14, 2015

  • I chant at football matches and don't just mouth the words :-)

    e chi non salta

    e' un laziale

    oh oh oh - oh oh oh - oh oh oh oh oh!

    May 29, 2008

  • I'm not technically tone deaf, but I can wreak serious carnage on a melody.

    May 28, 2008

  • Very few people are genuinely tone deaf. Very few.

    But there are a lot of people who've been told – usually as a child by some thoughtless and ignorant adult – that they are tone deaf. These are the kids who are told to mouth the words in choir and are generally discouraged from singing or otherwise participating in music making, and who are then deprived of great enjoyment often for the rest of their lives. What makes me really furious is when the adult in question has been a "music teacher".

    May 28, 2008