tone (n.) Look up tone at
mid-14c., "musical sound or note," from Old French ton "musical sound, speech, words" (13c.) and directly from Latin tonus "a sound, tone, accent," literally "stretching" (in Medieval Latin, a term peculiar to music), from Greek tonos "vocal pitch, raising of voice, accent, key in music," originally "a stretching, tightening, taut string," related to teinein "to stretch" (see tenet). Sense of "manner of speaking" is from c.1600. First reference to firmness of body is from 1660s. As "prevailing state of manners" from 1735; as "style in speaking or writing which reveals attitude" from 1765. Tone-deaf is from 1880; tone-poem from 1845.
tone (v.) Look up tone at
"to impart tone to," 1811, from tone (n.). Related: Toned; toning. To tone (something) down originally was in painting (1831); general sense of "reduce, moderate" is by 1847.