Tone Words: Definition and Useful Examples of Tone Words

When looking at the English language, you may find yourself confronted with tone words, but what are they and what are they used for? In this article, we are going to be looking at what a tone word is and how they function. We will also be taking a look at a variety of examples to show how tone words can be used.

What Are Tone Words?

When we talk about the tone of a story, we are referring to how it is shaped and how life is brought to it. Writers use tone as a way of adding a mood or a theme to their work and it can also be used as a way of giving the characters a voice.

The tone of the story also gives the reader the opportunity to learn more about the personality of a character or situation. But most importantly the tone gives shape to the writing and gives us an impression of whether it is funny, sad, happy, dramatic or any other emotion.

In order to create the tone of a piece, it is important that the writer employs the use of tone words. These are words that help set the tone and shape the story.

Tone Versus Voice

Often times, people might confuse tone with voice but these are two completely different aspects within a story. The best way to differentiate between the two is to remember that the tone can continually change throughout the story, whereas the voice does not.

Examples of Tone Words

In order to fully understand tone words, we are now going to take a look at some of the most common examples and their meanings.

Funny Tone Words

  • Absurd – something which is funny because it’s impossible
  • Animated – something which is lively
  • Blithe – something carefree and cheerful
  • Entertaining – something which brings joy and amusement
  • Farcical – something which is so exaggerated, it becomes ridiculous.
  • Hilarious – something incredible funny
  • Incredulous – something that is difficult to believe
  • Joyful – something which is very happy
  • Laughable – something which deserves laughter
  • Satirical – a style of humor which is ironic or features sarcasm
  • Witty – funny in an intelligent manner

Serious Tone Words

  • Apathetic – something which lacks in emotion
  • Austere – something that is somber
  • Compliant – something or someone that is obedient
  • Condescending – someone who acts as though they are superior
  • Contemptuous – someone who hates deeply
  • Critical – someone or something which carefully judges
  • Demeaning – something that puts a person or situation down
  • Depressing – something sad and gloomy
  • Grave – something very serious
  • Pensive – being deep in a state of thought
  • Pragmatic – something or someone who is logical and practical
  • Sedate – something calm
  • Solemn – something sincere and serious
  • Tragic – something terribly sad

Sad Tone Words

  • Bleak – something gloomy
  • Disparaging – something which is insulting
  • Disgruntled – someone who is unhappy and not satisfied
  • Dismal – something very gloomy
  • Egotistical – someone who is very vain
  • Facetious – someone who makes a joke when it is not appropriate
  • Hostile – someone who is angry and aggressive
  • Melancholy – a feeling of content sadness
  • Menacing – something or someone that is dangerous and a threat
  • Resentful – someone who holds a grudge
  • Sinister – something threatening or harmful

Happy Tone Words

  • Affable – someone who is friendly
  • Benevolent – someone who is kind
  • Compassion – a display of sympathy and understanding
  • Conciliatory – something to try to make a person feel better
  • Dignified – someone with self-respect and nobility
  • Docile – someone or something passive
  • Exhilarated – someone who is happy and excited.
  • Exuberant – someone with a great deal of enthusiasm
  • Festive – something celebratory
  • Jovial – someone who is happy
  • Optimistic – someone of something with a positive outlook
  • Serene – something calm and tranquil with no concerns
  • Sympathetic – someone who is feeling compassionate
  • Whimsical – something playful and unusual

Tone Words In A Sentence

Now that we are aware of a good amount of tone words, we can now start to look at how they are used within a sentence. Here are some examples, from which you will see that the tone words allow you to get a feel for what is being said.

  • The forest was bleak and dark.
  • The man may have lost the court case but at least he remained dignified.
  • I found it absurd that my ex-husband had invited himself to my wedding
  • Ryan found himself in grave danger when he entered into the criminal’s home.
  • Amy felt utterly jovial after learning that she had achieved what she had set out to achieve.
  • The Shakespeare play was extremely witty and entertaining.
  • The dog was quite docile as it snoozed on the front porch.
  • She knew that the house move looked optimistic.


A tone word is used to set the tone of a piece of writing. These words allow the writer to shape the story and bring it to life by giving the reader a feeling to which they can relate. Tone can sometimes be confused with the voice of the story but the two are actually very different with the tone being free to change as frequently as in each sentence.

Tone Words Infographic

Tone Words: Definition and Useful Examples of Tone WordsPin

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