tone | tōn | noun
1 a musical or vocal sound with reference to its pitch, quality, and strength: the piano tone appears monochrome or lacking in warmth. • a modulation of the voice expressing a particular feeling or mood: a firm tone of voice. • a musical note, warble, or other sound used as a particular signal on a telephone or answering machine.
2 the general character or attitude of a place, piece of writing, situation, etc.: my friend and I lowered the tone with our oafish ways | there was a general tone of ill-concealed glee in the reporting. • informal an atmosphere of respectability or class: they don’t feel he gives the place tone.
3 (also whole tone) a basic interval in classical Western music, equal to two semitones and separating, for example, the first and second notes of an ordinary scale (such as C and D, or E and F sharp); a major second or whole step: the B flat clarinet’s part is written one tone higher than the pitch required.
4 the particular quality of brightness, deepness, or hue of a tint or shade of a color: stained glass in vivid tones of red and blue | an attractive color that is even in tone and texture. • the general effect of color or of light and shade in a picture. • a slight degree of difference in the intensity of a color.
5 Phonetics (in some languages, such as Chinese) a particular pitch pattern on a syllable used to make semantic distinctions. • (in some languages, such as English) intonation on a word or phrase used to add functional meaning.
6 (also muscle tone) the normal level of firmness or slight contraction in a resting muscle: a reduction of muscle tone | a certain amount of daily exercise is essential to maintain proper body tone and function. • Physiology the normal level of activity in a nerve fiber: vagal tone.
verb [with object]
1 give greater strength or firmness to (the body or a part of it): exercise tones up the muscles. • [no object] (tone up) (of a muscle or other bodily part) became stronger or firmer: his leg muscles had toned up.
2 [no object] (tone with) harmonize with (something) in terms of color: the rich orange color of the wood tones beautifully with the yellow roses.
3 Photography give (a monochrome picture) an altered color in finishing by means of a chemical solution: it’s a good idea to sepia tone the whole print first.