Word of the Day


© Cultura


1. the first part of a long piece of classical music such as an opera or a symphony

2. a suggestion or offer that you make to someone

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The first use of the musical meaning of overture dates from the late 17th century,  while the ‘suggestion’ meaning dates from the early 15th century. Both are borrowed from the French ‘overture’ or ‘ouverture’ meaning ‘opening’.


While the musical meaning of overture is nowadays vastly more frequent, the ‘suggestion’ meaning, which is labelled ‘formal’ in Macmillan Dictionary, is almost three centuries older. A musical overture invites the audience to listen to what is coming, and often summarizes its principal themes. The other kind of overture is also a type of invitation, in this case an offer or suggestion that is made to someone. It is often used in the plural, especially in the phrase ‘make overtures to’. Frequent verb collocates of this second meaning include rebuff, spurn, reject and resist.


“The audience is requested not to refrain from talking during the overture. Otherwise they will know all the tunes before the opera begins.”
(Ralph Vaughan Williams)

Related words

suggestion, proposal, recommendation

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

Leave a Comment