The closest word I can come up with is "dynamic", but that has positive connotations. I'm looking for a word for someone whose voice is dynamic to the extreme--overly varied intonation.

The best I can come up with is pitchy, but that is more appropriate for singing.

There is also affected, but that's overly broad--I think of a put on accent when I hear that as much as overly variable tone.

  • Abroad, I hear the word "American" used to refer to this type of voice pitch. North American tend to speak in high and low tones, but not mid-tone. I see this often when people speak to babies or pets.
    – Sun
    Jul 7, 2015 at 16:22
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    Undulate is the verb for this, but no particular negative connotation, except excessive waves tend to make people nauseous.
    – jxh
    Jul 7, 2015 at 16:30
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    @sunk818 No: most American accents are dead flat. Listen to Hugh Laurie gripe about how he has to strip away all the natural pitch variation (not that he’s all that sing-song, but still) in his native accent to put on an American one.
    – tchrist
    Jul 7, 2015 at 16:55
  • If you want to stress the "too much" part, I would use a simple word to describe the voice. Maybe "overly dramatic"?
    – Cephalopod
    Jul 7, 2015 at 20:18
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    You could call the person a yodeler (a skill when applied to an actual singing yodeler, a bit sarcastic when describing someone's talking voice). Jul 7, 2015 at 20:19

5 Answers 5


Maybe you are looking for singsong?

Merriam-Webster: "a way of speaking in which the sound of your voice rises and falls in a pattern".

I would say it's usually understood as an undesirable trait.

This video gives an (exaggerated) example.

  • I like this a lot and had forgotten about this word but still feel it's too positive--maybe the word I'm looking for doesn't exist.
    – j.i.h.
    Jul 7, 2015 at 17:41
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    @j.i.h. annoying singsong voice is a perfectly ordinary collocation. Jul 7, 2015 at 17:59

For a noun with negative connotations, consider caterwauling, from caterwaul:

  1. To cry or screech like a cat in heat. 2. To make a shrill, discordant sound. (AHD, 4th edition)

(Like most cats' meowing, the cry of a cat in heat runs from high to low, just louder, more repetitively, and more insistently.)

On the other hand, modulated from modulate, though neutral, gets at the pitch variation:

  1. To change the pitch, intensity or tone of one's voice or of a musical instrument. (Wiktionary)

And from music, namely opera singing, there's vibrato:

  1. The musical effect or technique where the pitch or frequency of a note or sound is quickly and repeatedly raised and lowered over a small distance for the duration of that note or sound. (Wiktionary)
  • As a Southerner, caterwauling is far too strong for this usage. As a musician, modulation and especially vibrato refer to something technical that is miles removed from OP's question. Jul 7, 2015 at 20:41
  • If caterwauling is a Southerner, and modulation and vibrato are musicians, then my definitions must be extraordinarily off-the-mark and incomplete!
    – jsoteeln
    Jul 7, 2015 at 20:59
  • I don't know if caterwauling is exclusively Southern, but I've definitely heard it all my life. I can see what you're getting out with vibrato, but I feel like if you heard someone talking with a vibrato it would be immediately extremely obvious and extremely odd. Jul 8, 2015 at 15:50
  • Point taken about vibrato, but it might work if used more suggestively, such as in "she spoke in the modulated tone of a vibrato." Though this omits the negative connotations called for, unless the narrator is known to dislike opera. Still, it's unclear what level of language is called for by @j.i.h.--regardless, some manner of metaphor or other comparison would most likely be used ("singsong" above, for example) to create the most lively image. That's why the image of a cat wailing seemed appropriate, especially if the narrator wishes to express displeasure at the sound of the voice.
    – jsoteeln
    Jul 8, 2015 at 17:11

warbling, although not terribly negative.

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    Welcome to the site @Dan! Can you improve your suggestion with a citation and an example? Jul 8, 2015 at 9:02

Cacophony (noun) or Cacophonic (adj) refer to an unpleasant mixture of sounds. See also: Dissonance

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    The varied pitch need not be unpleasant, and cacaphonous sounds need not vary much in pitch.
    – deadrat
    Jul 7, 2015 at 19:44
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    This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post.
    – deadrat
    Jul 7, 2015 at 19:45
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    A rim job need not be unpleasant either, but I guarantee you wouldn't like it if you're called one. Jul 7, 2015 at 19:49
  • Your sexual proclivities aside, I guarantee you that nothing said on this forum (or any other) has the capacity to bother me. Your answer is inapt. "Cacaphony" does not capture the meaning of varied pitch that the OP asked for, and it implies an unpleasantness that the OP didn't ask for.
    – deadrat
    Jul 7, 2015 at 19:56
  • What are you talking about? The author is absolutely looking for an unpleasant word. It's right in the title "Negative word...". Furthermore, the OP states that singsong is 'too positive'. Jul 7, 2015 at 20:35

How about polytone? I am not sure if it has a "negative" connotation to it.

  • 1
    Please include reference to online sources for this word, so readers can judge whether it is applicable. You should also give an attribution for the source.
    – Margana
    Jul 8, 2015 at 20:08

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