1. The tonic of a musical key.
2. A prime underlying element or theme: "The keynote of the revolution settlement was personal freedom under the law" (G.M. Trevelyan).
tr.v. key·not·ed, key·not·ing, key·notes
1. To give or set the keynote of.
2. Informal To give a keynote address at: keynoted the press luncheon.
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.