26 Sep /14


The origin of the word cacophony goes back to Ancient Greece where the Greek word kakophonia was made up of kakos (bad) and phone – voice. Quite clearly the word was used in reference to harsh voices and unpleasant sounds.

As many words of Greek origin, the word cacophony came into the English language quite late. The first recorded reference is from 1656, the year in which Thomas Blount published his quaintly named Glossographia. This book is a key work in the history of English words with almost 1,500 words being introduced to the language for the first time. One of those the Word of the day blog has mentioned before – caravan. Others will follow. The quaintest part is its subtitle “A dictionary interpreting all such hard words, whether Hebrew, Greek or Latin”. His definition for the difficult word cacophony was “an ill, harsh, or unpleasing sound”.

For more information on just how interesting dictionaries can be refer to the blog War of the Words which describes a battle of words in the 1600s.

In poetry and music cacophony refers to the accidental or intentional mixes of harsh, unmelodious sounds. The first use in this meaning appeared in a mighty work on music running into 4 volumes. On a section about organ music, cacophony results from incorrect setting of the stops.

In everyday life, the term cacophony is most often used to describe disorganization, chaos and situations which went beyond control and out of plan. To be honest, some karaoke attempts give a good idea of what cacophony is.