Latin intonatus, past participle of intonare (to thunder, resound).


intonate (third-person singular simple present intonates, present participle intonating, simple past and past participle intonated)

  1. (transitive, intransitive, dated) To intone or recite (words), especially emphatically or in a chanting manner.
    • 1840, Thomas De Quincey, “Theory of Greek Tragedy” in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 47, No. 292, February 1840, p. 153,[2]
      [] we have no doubt whatever that the recitation of verse on the stage was of an artificial and semi-musical character. It was undoubtedly much more sustained and intonated with a slow and measured stateliness, which, whilst harmonizing it with the other circumstances of solemnity in Greek tragedy, would bring it nearer to music.
    • 1911, Charles Clinton Nourse, Autobiography, Cedar Rapids, Iowa: for the author, Chapter 2,[3]
      His manner on the platform and his speech were those of a drony, sing-song, intonating Episcopal minister, devoid of life and spirit.
    • 1985, David H. Rothman, The Silicon Jungle, New York: Ballantine, Chapter 10, p. 171,[4]
      With actorlike polish he intonated through the third page []
  2. (transitive, dated) To say or speak with a certain intonation.
    • 1845, Sheridan Le Fanu, The Cock and the Anchor, Dublin: William Curry, Jun., Volume 1, Chapter 6, p. 74,[5]
      “Is this Mr. O’Connor’s chamber?” inquired a voice of peculiar richness, intonated not unpleasingly with a certain melodious modification of the brogue []
    • 1858, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Passages from the French and Italian Note-Books of Nathaniel Hawthorne, London: Strahan, 1871, Volume 1, “Rome,” p. 274,[6]
      Miss Bremer talked plentifully in her strange manner—good English enough for a foreigner, but so oddly intonated and accented, that it is impossible to be sure of more than one word in ten.
    • 1882, Road Scrapings: Coaches and Coaching, London: Tinsley Brothers, Chapter 6, p. 92,[7]
      [] an older man, attired in gray, with hair to match, was busily engaged at one end of the room packing a quantity of small cases into a larger one, and continuing to hold converse with himself by means of the monosyllable “yes,” differently intonated, at intervals of half-a-minute, “y-e-s—y-e-s.”
    • 1920, Paul Klapper, Teaching Children to Read, New York: Appleton, Chapter 8, p. 118,[8]
      [] another child of foreign parentage intonates his English with the cadence peculiar to the language of his parents.
  3. (transitive, dated) To intone or vocalize (musical notes); to sound the tones of the musical scale; to practise the sol-fa.[1]
    • 1776, John Hawkins, A General History of the Science and Practice of Music, Volume 2, Book 4, Chapter 3 p. 431,[9]
      The composer so ordered it, that the king’s part should be one holding note, in a pitch proper for a Contratenor, for that was the king’s voice. Nor was he inattentive to other particulars, for he contrived his own part, which was the Bass, in such a manner, that every other note he sung was an octave to that of the king, which prevented his majesty from deviating from that single note which he was to intonate.
    • 1844, The order for morning and evening prayer, and the Litany : with plain-tune, according to the use of the United Church of England and Ireland, London: J. Burns,Editor’s Preface,[10]
      A comma or colon was intonated by the fall of a minor third from the key-note on the ultimate or penultimate and ultimate syllables of the clause []
  4. (obsolete) To thunder or to utter in a sonorous or thunderous voice.[2][3][4]
    • 1543, Thomas Beccon, A pleasaunt newe nosegaye full of many godly and swete floures, London: John Gough, Dedicatory epistle,[11]
      But agaynst all such as contemne the holy scriptures & cast awaye the law of theyr LORDE God, wyllynge neither to enter them selues, nor yet suffryng other, christ intonateth and thonderethe on this manner []
    • 1663, Edward Waterhouse, Fortescutus Illustratus, London: Thomas Dicas, Chapter 1, p. 30,[12]
      [] I hold a Prince ought not wholly to neglect Military Affairs, but verse himself in, and accustome himself to them, that he may intonate fear into Neighbours []
    • 19th century, Sumner Lincoln Fairfield, “Ode to Deity” in Poems, New York: E. Bliss and E. White et al., p. 159,[13]
      And o’er the sphere the forked lightning flies,
      And intonating thunders shake the skies.

Related termsEdit


  1. ^ John S. Adams, Adams’ New Musical Dictionary, New York: S.T. Gordon, 1865, p. 121: “Intonate. To sound the tones of the scale; to practise solmization; to read in a musical manner.”[1]
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1989.
  3. ^ An American Dictionary of the English Language, by Noah Webster, 1828.
  4. ^ Nathan Bailey, Universal Etymological Dictionary, London: T. Cox, 1736, 2nd edition: INTONATE, to thunder or make a rumbling noise.




  1. inflection of intonare:
    1. second-person plural present indicative
    2. second-person plural imperative
  2. feminine plural of intonato





  1. second-person plural present active imperative of intonō