voice / vois/ • n. 1. the sound produced in a person's larynx and uttered through the mouth, as speech or song: Meg raised her voice| a worried tone of voice. ∎ an agency by which a particular point of view is expressed or represented: once the proud voice of middle-class conservatism, the paper had fallen on hard times. ∎ [in sing.] the right to express an opinion: the new electoral system gives minority parties a voice. ∎ a particular opinion or attitude expressed: a dissenting voice. ∎ the ability to speak or sing: she'd lost her voice. ∎ (usu. voices) the supposed utterance of a guiding spirit, typically giving instructions or advice. ∎ the distinctive tone or style of a literary work or author: she had strained and falsified her literary voice. 2. Mus. the range of pitch or type of tone with which a person sings, such as soprano or tenor. ∎ a vocal part in a composition. ∎ a constituent part in a fugue. ∎ each of the notes or sounds able to be produced simultaneously by a musical instrument (esp. an electronic one) or a computer. ∎ (in an electronic musical instrument) each of a number of preset or programmable tones. 3. Phonet. sound uttered with resonance of the vocal cords (used in the pronunciation of vowels and certain consonants). 4. Gram. a form or set of forms of a verb showing the relation of the subject to the action: the passive voice.• v. [tr.] 1. express (something) in words: get teachers to voice their opinions on important subjects. 2. [usu. as adj.] (voiced) Phonet. utter (a speech sound) with resonance of the vocal cords (e.g., b, d, g, v, z). 3. Mus. regulate the tone quality of (organ pipes).PHRASES: give voice to allow (a particular emotion, opinion, or point of view) to be expressed. ∎ allow (a person or group) to express their emotions, opinion, or point of view.in voice in proper vocal condition for singing or speaking: the soprano is in marvelous voice.with one voice in complete agreement; unanimously.DERIVATIVES: voiced adj. [in comb.] deep-voiced.voic·er n. (in sense 3 of the verb ).ORIGIN: Middle English: from Old French vois, from Latin vox, voc-.
Voice as vocal soundThe typical SOUND of someone speaking, the product of the vibration of the vocal cords, the resonant effect of the pharynx, mouth, nose, and tongue, the effect of rhythm and pitch, and such qualities as huskiness and throatiness. Individual voices differ, but the voices of members of certain groups have common features: adult male voices are usually ‘deeper’ (have a lower pitch) than women's and children's voices; the voices of people from the same region and/or social group usually share features of a particular accent. Kinds of voice can be categorized according to musical register: a tenor voice, a falsetto voice.
Voice in phoneticsThe buzzing sound made in the larynx by the vibration of the vocal cords or folds. In terms of this vibration, sounds are said to be voiced or voiceless. Voiced sounds such as /b, d, g, z/ are made by bringing the vocal folds close together so that the air stream forces them to vibrate as it passes through the glottis. The difference between voice and voicelessness can be checked by holding the larynx and saying zzzz and ssss in alternation, feeling vibration then lack of vibration. See ARTICULATION, DEVOICING, SPEECH, VOICE QUALITY.
Voice in grammarA category that involves the relationship of subject and object in a sentence or clause. In English, the contrast is between active voice and passive voice, affecting both the structure of the sentence and the form of the verb: Susan chose the furniture is an active sentence whose corresponding passive is The furniture was chosen by Susan. The active object (the furniture) is identical with the passive subject, while the active subject is incorporated in a by-phrase (by Susan). The two sentences have the same truth value, though there are differences in style and emphasis, in that passives are usually more formal than actives and the end of a sentence or clause tends to have the greatest emphasis. The by-phrase is often omitted from the passive sentence, especially in technical writing, producing an agentless passive. See PASSIVIZATION.
Narrative voiceA term in literary criticism for the person who ‘speaks’ in a story, either a narrator who represents the author (‘third person’: the implied author or omniscient narrator), or who is represented by a character (‘first person’). Within a narrative, other ‘voices’ may be heard in dialogue, in direct speech, and in some works of fiction several first-person voices may take up the same story from different perspectives. See DIRECT AND INDIRECT SPEECH.
To produce sounds the vocal folds are brought together by the muscles of the larynx. At the same time, the respiratory muscles of the chest wall that assist expiration cause the air pressure immediately below the vocal folds to increase, pushing them apart. As the air escapes between them through the larynx, the pressure below the vocal folds decreases and they come together; the pressure beneath the folds rises again, and the process repeats itself. This rapid opening and closing of the vocal folds produces vibration that we perceive as voice.
See also larynx; singing; speech.
the voice of the people is the voice of God proverbial saying, early 15th century; English version of the Latin vox populi, vox dei. The Latin saying was cited by the Anglo-Saxon scholar and theologian Alcuin (c.735–804), ‘Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit [And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness].’
The American Union general William Tecumsah Sherman (1820–91) took a similarly sceptical view in a letter to his wife, 2 June 1863, ‘Vox populi, vox humbug’.
See also a voice in the wilderness.
1. Means of producing sounds in humans and animals using 2 vibrating agents called vocal cords. The various kinds of human v., e.g. soprano, tenor, bass, etc., are described under their individual entries.
2. Separate strand of mus. in counterpoint or harmony, also known as ‘part’ or, more confusingly, ‘voice-part’ (e.g. a Mass for 5 voices is not a work for 5 singers but for 5 different vocal ranges, each of which could contain any number of singers). A fugue is in several vv. or parts, whether these are sung or played.
3. As verb, meaning to adjust org.-pipe at construction stage so that it meets required standards of pitch, etc.
Hence voice vb. speak of, state XV; give utterance to XVII; endow with voice XVIII.