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in·to·na·tion / ˌintəˈnāshən; -tō-/ • n. 1. the rise and fall of the voice in speaking: she spoke English with a German intonation. ∎  the action of intoning or reciting in a singing voice. 2. accuracy of pitch in playing or singing: poor woodwind intonation at the opening. 3. the opening phrase of a plainsong melody. DERIVATIVES: in·to·na·tion·al / -shənl/ adj.

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INTONATION. The TONE pattern of SPEECH, produced by varying vocal pitch. Type and style of intonation are closely linked to patterns of RHYTHM and STRESS and cannot easily be described separately from them.

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1. The opening phrase of a plainsong melody, perhaps so called because it was often sung by the precentor alone, giving the pitch and (in the Psalms) the ‘tone’ of what was to follow.

2. The act of singing or playing in tune. Thus we speak of a singer or instrumentalist's ‘intonation’ as being good or bad.