1. Music. the note or tone on which a key or system of tones is founded; the tonic.
  2. the main idea or central principle of a speech, program, thought, action, etc.
  3. the policy line to be followed, as by a party in a political campaign, that is set forth authoritatively in advance by an address or other formal announcement.
  4. keynote address.

verb (used with object), key·not·ed, key·not·ing.

  1. to announce the policy of (a political party, campaign, assembly, etc.); deliver a keynote address at: The governor will keynote the convention.
  2. to serve as the keynote for.
  3. Music. to give the keynote of.

verb (used without object), key·not·ed, key·not·ing.

  1. to provide a keynote, especially a keynote address: He refused an invitation to keynote.


    1. a central or determining principle in a speech, literary work, etc
    2. (as modifier)a keynote speech
  1. the note upon which a scale or key is based; tonic

verb (tr)

  1. to deliver a keynote address to (a political convention, etc)
  2. to outline (political issues, policy, etc) in or as in a keynote address

also key-note, “lowest note of a musical scale, basis of a scale,” 1776, from key (n.1) in sense of “musical scale” + note (n.). Figurative sense of “leading idea” is from 1783; keynote address is 1905, American English.

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