chord 1 (kôrd)
1. Music A combination of three or more pitches sounded simultaneously.
2. Harmony, as of color.
v. chord·ed, chord·ing, chords
Music To play chords: She chorded up and down the neck of the guitar.
1. To play chords on: chorded the piano.
2. To produce by playing musical chords; harmonize: chord a melody.
[Alteration (influenced by chord, musical instrument string) of Middle English cord, from accord, agreement, from Old French acorde, from acorder, to agree; see ACCORD.]
Usage Note: The words chord and cord are often confused—and with good reason, for they are really three words, not two. There are two words spelled chord (listed as separate entries with homograph numbers in this dictionary). The first comes from the word accord and refers to a harmonious combination of three or more musical notes. The second is an alteration of cord, taking its spelling from Greek chorda, "string, gut," by way of Latin. This is the mathematical chord—a line segment that joins two points on a curve. Cord itself means "a string or rope." It has many extensions, as in an electrical cord and a cord of wood. When referring to anatomical structures, it can be spelled in general usage either as cord or chord (again by influence of Greek and Latin). Strict medical usage requires cord, however. A doctor may examine a spinal cord or vocal cords, not chords.
(click for a larger image)chord1
E major chord in opening bar of Edvard Grieg's Morgenstemning
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.