Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French tun, ton, from Latin tonus tension, tone, from Greek tonos, literally, act of stretching; akin to Greek teinein to stretch — more at thin
Date: 14th century
1. vocal or musical sound of a specific quality <spoke in low tones> <masculine tones>; especially musical sound with respect to timbre and manner of expression 2. a. a sound of definite pitch and vibration b. whole step 3. accent or inflection expressive of a mood or emotion 4. the pitch of a word often used to express differences of meaning 5. a particular pitch or change of pitch constituting an element in the intonation of a phrase or sentence <high tone> <low tone> <mid tone> <low-rising tone> <falling tone> 6. style or manner of expression in speaking or writing <seemed wise to adopt a conciliatory tone> 7. a. (1) color quality or value (2) a tint or shade of color b. the color that appreciably modifies a hue or white or black <gray walls of greenish tone> 8. the effect in painting of light and shade together with color 9. a. the state of a living body or of any of its organs or parts in which the functions are healthy and performed with due vigor b. normal tension or responsiveness to stimuli; specifically muscular tonus 10. a. healthy elasticity ; resiliency b. general character, quality, or trend <a city's upbeat tone> c. frame of mind ; mood II. verb (toned; toning) Date: 1660 transitive verb 1. intone 2. to give a particular intonation or inflection to 3. a. to impart tone to ; strengthen <medicine to tone up the system> b. to soften or reduce in intensity, color, appearance, or sound ; mellow — often used with down c. to change the normal silver image of (as a photographic print) into a colored image intransitive verb 1. to assume a pleasing color quality or tint 2. to blend or harmonize in color
New Collegiate Dictionary. 2001.