AskDefine | Define keynote

Dictionary Definition



1 the principal theme in a speech or literary work
2 a fundamental or central idea
3 (music) the first note of a diatonic scale [syn: tonic]


1 set the keynote of; "Comfort keynotes this designer's Fall collection"
2 give the keynote address to (an audience)

User Contributed Dictionary



IPA (US): /ˈkiːˌnoʊt/


key + note


  1. (Music:) the note on which a musical key is based
  2. the main theme of a speech, a written work, or a conference
  3. a "keynote speech" or "keynote address" is a speech that sets the main theme of a conference or other gathering

Extensive Definition

A keynote in literature, music or public speaking is the principal underlying theme of a larger idea — a literary story, an individual musical piece or event. At political or industrial conventions and expositions and at academic conferences, the keynote address or keynote speech is delivered to set the underlying tone and summarize the core message or most important revelation of the event. Some of the more famous keynote speeches in the United States are those at the party conventions during Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns. Keynote speakers at these events have often gained nationwide fame (or notoriety), and have occasionally influenced the course of the election; for example, Pat Buchanan at the 1992 Republican National Convention and Barack Obama at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Similar speeches are given at political conventions and party meetings throughout the world.
Keynote speeches are also given at the graduation and commencement ceremonies of colleges, universities, and major high schools, usually by accomplished academics or celebrities invited by the student body.
Keynote speakers are often selected to raise interest in a particular event and draw attendees to attend that program. Selecting a keynote speaker who is well known for his or her expertise in a particular field, or who has wide name recognition due to other accomplisments, will likely raise enthusiasm among prospective attendees for a meeting or conference.
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