AskDefine | Define voice

Dictionary Definition



1 the distinctive quality or pitch or condition of a person's speech; "A shrill voice sounded behind us"
2 the sound made by the vibration of vocal folds modified by the resonance of the vocal tract; "a singer takes good care of his voice"; "the giraffe cannot make any vocalizations" [syn: vocalization, vocalisation, phonation, vox]
3 a sound suggestive of a vocal utterance; "the noisy voice of the waterfall"; "the incessant voices of the artillery"
4 expressing in coherent verbal form; "the articulation of my feelings"; "I gave voice to my feelings" [syn: articulation]
5 a means or agency by which something is expressed or communicated; "the voice of the law"; "the Times is not the voice of New York"; "conservatism has many voices"
6 something suggestive of speech in being a medium of expression; "the wee small voice of conscience"; "the voice of experience"; "he said his voices told him to do it"
7 (metonymy) a singer; "he wanted to hear trained voices sing it"
8 an advocate who represents someone else's policy or purpose; "the meeting was attended by spokespersons for all the major organs of government" [syn: spokesperson, interpreter, representative]
9 the ability to speak; "he lost his voice"
10 (linguistics) the grammatical relation (active or passive) of the grammatical subject of a verb to the action that the verb denotes
11 the melody carried by a particular voice or instrument in polyphonic music; "he tried to sing the tenor part" [syn: part]


1 give voice to; "He voiced his concern"
2 utter with vibrating vocal chords [syn: sound, vocalize, vocalise] [ant: devoice]

User Contributed Dictionary



Old English vois, voys, Old French vois, voiz, French voix, Latin vox, vocis, akin to Sanskrit वच् (to say, to speak) and German erwähnen (to mention). Compare advocate, advowson, avouch, convoke, epic, vocal, vouch, vowel.



  1. Sound uttered by the mouth, especially that uttered by human beings in speech or song; sound thus uttered considered as possessing some special quality or character; as, the human voice; a pleasant voice; a low voice.
    • He with a manly voice saith his message. — Chaucer
    • Her voice was ever soft, Gentle, and low; an excellent thing in woman. — Shakespeare, King Lear, V-iii
    • Thy voice is music. — Shakespeare, Henry V, V-ii
    • Join thy voice unto the angel choir. — Milton
  2. Sound of the kind or quality heard in speech or song in the consonants b, v, d, etc., and in the vowels; sonant, or intonated, utterance; tone; — distinguished from mere breath sound as heard in f, s, sh, etc., and also whisper.
    Note: Voice, in this sense, is produced by vibration of the vocal cords in the larynx which act upon the air, not in the manner of the strings of a stringed instrument, but as a pair of membranous tongues, or reeds, which, being continually forced apart by the outgoing current of breath, and continually brought together again by their own elasticity and muscular tension, break the breath current into a series of puffs, or pulses, sufficiently rapid to cause the sensation of tone. The power, or loudness, of such a tone depends on the force of the separate pulses, and this is determined by the pressure of the expired air, together with the resistance on the part of the vocal cords which is continually overcome. Its pitch depends on the number of aërial pulses within a given time, that is, on the rapidity of their succession.
  3. The tone or sound emitted by anything
    • After the fire a still small voice. — 1 Kings 19:12
    • Canst thou thunder with a voice like him? — Job 40:9
    • The floods have lifted up their voice. — ''Psalms 93:3
    • O Marcus, I am warm’d; my heart Leaps at the trumpet’s voice. — Addison
  4. The faculty or power of utterance; as, to cultivate the voice
  5. Language; words; speech; expression; signification of feeling or opinion
    • I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you. — Galatians 4:20
    • My voice is in my sword. — Shakespeare, Macbeth, V-vii
    • Let us call on God in the voice of his church. — Bp. Fell
  6. Opinion or choice expressed; judgment; a vote.
    • Sicinius. How now, my masters! have you chose this man? / 1st Citizen. He has our voices, sir. — Shakespeare, Coriolanus, II-iii''
    • Some laws ordain, and some attend the choice / Of holy senates, and elect by voice. — Dryden
  7. Command; precept; — now chiefly used in scriptural language.
    • So shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the Lord your God. — Deuteronomy 8:20
  8. One who speaks; a speaker.
    • A potent voice of Parliament. — Tennyson
  9. A particular mode of inflecting or conjugating verbs, or a particular form of a verb, by means of which is indicated the relation of the subject of the verb to the action which the verb expresses.


sound uttered by the mouth, especially that uttered by human beings in speech or song
sound of the kind or quality heard in speech or song in the consonants b, v, d, etc., and in the vowels
  • Danish: stemning
  • German: Stimme
  • Japanese: 有声音, 濁音
  • Spanish: sonoro
the tone or sound emitted by anything
  • Danish: lyd
  • Finnish: ääni
  • German: Stimme
  • Japanese: 音
  • Polish: głos
  • Scots: vyce
  • Spanish: voz
the faculty or power of utterance
language; words; speech; expression; signification of feeling or opinion
  • Danish: stemme
  • Japanese: 声
  • Polish: głos
  • Spanish: palabra
  • Swedish: röst, stämma
opinion or choice expressed; judgment; a vote
  • Czech: hlas
  • Danish: stemme
  • Finnish: mielipide
  • Japanese: 声
  • Kurdish: ده‌نگ
  • Polish: głos
  • Spanish: voto
  • Swedish: röst
command, precept
  • Danish: vilje
  • Japanese: 声
  • Swedish: vilja, röst
one who speaks; a speaker
  • Danish: stemme
  • Spanish: orden
  • Swedish: röst
a particular mode of inflecting or conjugating verbs, or a particular form of a verb
  • Czech: rod
  • Danish: form
  • Finnish: pääluokka
  • Japanese: 態
  • Russian: залог
  • Spanish: voz

Derived terms

FIXME: the following should be separate articles:
  • Active voice (Grammar): that form of the verb by which its subject is represented as the agent or doer of the action expressed by it.
  • Chest voice (Phonology): a kind of voice of a medium or low pitch and of a sonorous quality ascribed to resonance in the chest, or thorax; voice of the thick register. It is produced by vibration of the vocal cords through their entire width and thickness, and with convex surfaces presented to each other.
  • Head voice (Phonology): a kind of voice of high pitch and of a thin quality ascribed to resonance in the head; voice of the thin register; falsetto. In producing it, the vibration of the cords is limited to their thin edges in the upper part, which are then presented to each other.
  • Middle voice (Grammar): that form of the verb by which its subject is represented as both the agent, or doer, and the object of the action, that is, as performing some act to or upon himself, or for his own advantage.
  • Passive voice : See under passive, (adjective).
  • Voice glide (Pronunciation): the brief and obscure neutral vowel sound that sometimes occurs between two consonants in an unaccented syllable (represented by the apostrophe), as in able. See glide, (Noun 2)
  • Voice stop. See voiced stop, under voiced, (Adjective)
  • With one voice, unanimously.
    • All with one voice . . . cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. — Acts 19:34


  1. To give utterance or expression to; to utter; to publish; to announce; to divulge; as, to voice the sentiments of the nation.
    • Rather assume thy right in silence and . . . then voice it with claims and challenges. — Bacon
    • It was voiced that the king purposed to put to death Edward Plantagenet. — Bacon
  2. In the context of "transitive|phonology": To utter with sonant or vocal tone; to pronounce with a narrowed glottis and rapid vibrations of the vocal cords; to speak above a whisper.
  3. To fit for producing the proper sounds; to regulate the tone of; as, to voice the pipes of an organ.
  4. In the context of "transitive|obsolete": To vote; to elect; to appointShakespeare
  5. In the context of "intransitive|obsolete": To clamor; to cry out — South


give utterance or expression to
utter with a sonant or vocal tone
  • Danish: udtale stemt
  • Japanese: 声をあげる
  • Swedish: tala
regulate the tone of
  • Danish: stemme
  • Japanese: 音を出す
  • Swedish: stämma
  • Danish: stemme
  • Japanese: 声をあげる
  • Swedish: rösta (vote), välja (elect)
  • Japanese: 声をあげる

Extensive Definition

The human voice consists of sound made by a human being using the vocal folds for talking, singing, laughing, crying, screaming, etc. Human voice is specifically that part of human sound production in which the vocal folds (vocal cords) are the primary noise source. Generally speaking, the voice can be subdivided into three parts; the lungs, the vocal folds, and the articulators. The lung (the pump) must produce adequate airflow to vibrate vocal folds (air is the fuel of the voice). The vocal folds (vocal cords) are the vibrators, neuromuscular units that ‘fine tune’ pitch & tone. The articulators (vocal tract consisting of tongue, palate, cheek, lips, etc.) articulate and filter the sound.
The vocal folds, in combination with the articulators, are capable of producing highly intricate arrays of sound.
The tone of voice may be modulated to suggest emotions such as anger, surprise, or happiness.

Voice types and the folds (cords) themselves

Men and women have different vocal folds sizes; adult male voices are usually lower-pitched and have larger folds. The male vocal folds (which would be measured vertically in the opposite diagram), are between 17 mm and 25 mm in length.
Matching the female body, which on the whole has less muscle than the male, females have smaller folds. The female vocal folds are between 12.5 mm and 17.5 mm in length.
As seen in the illustration, the folds are located just above the trachea (the windpipe which travels from the lungs). Food and drink do not pass through the cords but instead pass through the esophagus, an unlinked tube. Both tubes are separated by the epiglottis, a "flap" that covers the opening of the trachea while swallowing. When food goes down through the cords and trachea (can occur when a person inhales while swallowing), aspiration and possibly choking result.
The folds in both sexes are within the larynx. They are attached at the back (side nearest the spinal cord) to the arytenoid cartilages, and at the front (side under the chin) to the thyroid cartilage. They have no outer edge as they blend into the side of the breathing tube (the illustration is out of date and does not show this well) while their inner edges or "margins" are free to vibrate (the hole). They have a three layer construction of an epithelium, vocal ligament, then muscle (vocalis muscle), which can shorten and bulge the folds. They are flat triangular bands and are pearly white in color. Above both sides of the vocal cord is the vestibular fold or false vocal cord, which has a small sac between its two folds (not illustrated).
The difference in vocal folds size between men and women means that they have differently pitched voices. Additionally, genetics also causes variances amongst the same sex, with men and women's singing voices being categorized into types. For example, among men, there are basses, baritones and tenors, and contraltos, mezzo-sopranos and sopranos among women. There are additional categories for operatic voices, see voice type. This is not the only source of difference between male and female voice. Men, generally speaking, have a larger vocal tract, which essentially gives the resultant voice a lower tonal quality. This is mostly independent of the vocal folds themselves.

Physiology and vocal timbre

The sound of each individual's voice is entirely unique not only because of the actual shape and size of an individual's vocal cords but also due to the size and shape of the rest of that person's body. Humans have vocal folds which can loosen, tighten, or change their thickness, and over which breath can be transferred at varying pressures. The shape of chest and neck, the position of the tongue, and the tightness of otherwise unrelated muscles can be altered. Any one of these actions results in a change in pitch, volume, timbre, or tone of the sound produced. Sound also resonates within different parts of the body, and an individual's size and bone structure can affect the sound produced by an individual.
Singers can also learn to project sound in certain ways so that it resonates better within their vocal tract. This is known as vocal resonation. Another major influence on vocal sound and production is the function of the larynx which people can manipulate in different ways to produce different sounds. These different kinds of laryngeal function are described as different kinds of vocal registers. The primary method for singers to accomplish this is through the use of the Singer's Formant; which has been shown to match particularly well to the most sensitive part of the ear's frequency range.

Vocal registration

Vocal registration refers to the system of vocal registers within the human voice. A register in the human voice is a particular series of tones, produced in the same vibratory pattern of the vocal folds, and possessing the same quality. Registers originate in laryngeal function. They occur because the vocal folds are capable of producing several different vibratory patterns. Each of these vibratory patterns appears within a particular range of pitches and produces certain characteristic sounds. The term register can be somewhat confusing at it encompasses several aspects of the human voice. The term register can be used to refer to any of the following:
  • A particular part of the vocal range such as the upper, middle, or lower registers.
  • A resonance area such as chest voice or head voice.
  • A phonatory process
  • A certain vocal timbre
  • A region of the voice which is defined or delimited by vocal breaks.
  • A subset of a language used for a particular purpose or in a particular social setting.
In linguistics, a register language is a language which combines tone and vowel phonation into a single phonological system.
Within speech pathology the term vocal register has three constituent elements: a certain vibratory pattern of the vocal folds, a certain series of pitches, and a certain type of sound. Speech pathologists identify four vocal registers based on the physiology of laryngeal function: the vocal fry register, the modal register, the falsetto register, and the whistle register. This view is also adopted by many vocal pedagogists. There are seven areas that may be listed as possible vocal resonators. In sequence from the lowest within the body to the highest, these areas are the chest, the tracheal tree, the larynx itself, the pharynx, the oral cavity, the nasal cavity, and the sinuses.

Influences of the human voice

The twelve tone musical scale, upon which the majority of the world's music is based, may have its roots in the sound of the human voice during the course of evolution, according to a study published by the New Scientist. Analysis of recorded speech samples found peaks in acoustic energy that mirrored the distances between notes in the twelve-tone scale.

Voice disorders

There are many disorders which affect the human voice; these include speech impediments, and growths and |lesions on the vocal folds. Talking improperly for long periods of time causes vocal loading which is stress inflicted on the speech organs. When vocal injury is done, often a ENT specialist may be able to help, but the best treatment is the prevention of injuries through good vocal production. Voice therapy is generally delivered by a Speech-language pathologist
Hoarseness or breathiness that lasts for more than two weeks is a common symptom for an underlying voice disorder and should be investigated medically.


Further reading

  • Puts, D. A., Gaulin, S. J. C., & Verdolini, K. (2006). Dominance and the evolution of sexual dimorphism in human voice pitch. Evolution and Human Behavior, 27: 283-296. Full text
  • Titze, I. R. (2008). The human instrument. Sci.Am. 298 (1):94-101. PM 18225701
  • Thurman, Leon & Welch, ed., Graham (2000), Bodymind & voice: Foundations of voice education (revised ed.), Collegeville, Minnesota: The VoiceCare Network et al., ISBN 0874141230
voice in Catalan: Veu
voice in Czech: Hlas
voice in German: Menschliche Stimme
voice in Estonian: Hääl
voice in Modern Greek (1453-): Φωνή
voice in Spanish: Voz (fonología)
voice in Esperanto: Voĉo
voice in Basque: Ahots
voice in French: Voix (instrument)
voice in Galician: Voz (fonoloxía)
voice in Korean: 음성
voice in Italian: Voce
voice in Lithuanian: Žmogaus balsas
voice in Dutch: Menselijke stem
voice in Japanese: 声
voice in Norwegian: Stemme
voice in Polish: Głos ludzki
voice in Portuguese: Voz humana
voice in Quechua: Kunka (rimay)
voice in Russian: Голос
voice in Simple English: Voice
voice in Slovak: Hlas
voice in Swedish: Rösten
voice in Venetian: Vóxe
voice in Võro: Inemise helü
voice in Yiddish: שטימע
voice in Chinese: 人聲

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Australian ballot, Hare system, Heldentenor, Meistersinger, OK, acceptance, accompaniment, active, active voice, adherence, admiration, agency, agent, air, allophone, alto, alveolar, apico-alveolar, apico-dental, approbation, approval, aria singer, articulate, articulation, aspiration, assert, assimilation, atone, attune, aye, ballot, baritenor, baritone, bass, basso, basso buffo, basso cantante, basso continuo, basso ostinato, basso profundo, bassus, bilabial, blessing, blues singer, bourdon, breathe, bring up, burden, cacuminal, canary, cantatrice, canto, cantor, cantus, cantus figuratus, cantus planus, canvass, canvassing, caroler, casting vote, cerebral, chance, chanter, chantress, check, chest voice, chime, chord, chorus, coloratura, coloratura soprano, come out with, comic bass, communicate, consonant, continuant, continuo, contralto, convey, countenance, countertenor, counting heads, crooner, cumulative voting, deciding vote, decision, declare, deep bass, deliver, dental, descant, diphthong, disclose, dissimilation, diva, division, dramatic soprano, drone, drone bass, emit, endorsement, enfranchisement, enunciate, epenthetic vowel, esteem, explosive, express, expression, fagot vote, falsetto, favor, favorable vote, figured bass, fling off, formulate, forum, franchise, give, give expression, give out with, give tongue, give utterance, give voice, glide, glottal, glottalization, graveyard vote, ground bass, guttural, hand vote, head voice, herald, heroic tenor, hymner, impart, improvisator, instrument, labial, labialization, labiodental, labiovelar, laryngeal, lateral, lead singer, let out, lieder singer, line, lingual, linguistic act, lip, liquid, list system, locution, make known, manner of articulation, manner of speaking, medio-passive, medium, melodist, mezzo-soprano, middle, middle voice, mode of expression, modification, monophthong, morphophoneme, mouthpiece, mute, nasal, nay, no, nod, nontransferable vote, occlusive, official spokesman, opera singer, option, organ, out with, palatal, parasitic vowel, parol, parole, part, participation, passive, passive voice, peak, pharyngeal, pharyngealization, phonate, phonation, phone, phoneme, phrase, plain chant, plain song, plebiscite, plebiscitum, plosive, plumper, plural vote, poll, polling, pour forth, preferential voting, present, prick song, prima donna, prolocutor, prolocutress, prolocutrix, pronounce, proportional representation, prothetic vowel, proxy, psalm singer, publication, put, put forth, put in tune, put in words, raise, rapporteur, record vote, recount, referendum, reflexive, reporter, representation, representative, respect, retroflex, reveal, right to vote, rising vote, rock-and-roll singer, sanction, say, say-so, seal of approval, secret ballot, segmental phoneme, semivowel, sequence of phonemes, set forth, share, show of hands, singer, single vote, singstress, snap vote, sonant, songbird, songster, songstress, sonority, soprano, sound, speaker, speaking, speech, speech act, speech sound, spokesman, spokesperson, spokeswoman, stamp of approval, statement, stop, straw vote, string, suffrage, surd, syllabic nucleus, syllabic peak, syllable, talk, tell, tenor, the spoken word, thorough bass, throw off, timbre, tone, tone down, tone of voice, tone up, tongue, torch singer, transferable vote, transition sound, treble, triphthong, tune, tune up, turn, undersong, utter, utterance, utterance string, vehicle, velar, vent, verbalize, viva voce, vocable, vocalic, vocalist, vocalize, vocalizer, voce, voce di petto, voce di testa, vocoid, voice part, voice qualifier, voice quality, voice vote, voiced sound, voiceless sound, voicing, vote, voting, voting right, vowel, warbler, way of saying, whisper, word, word of mouth, words, write-in, write-in vote, yea, yea vote, yeas and nays, yes, yodeler
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