Inflection refers to the ups and downs of a language. Even if you can’t understand Italian yet, the inflection in your professor’s voice should tip you off to whether she's asking a question, giving a command, or making a joke.

What began in the 1500s as a noun of action spelled inflexion has since evolved into inflection, a word with grammatical connotation. Inflection most often refers to the pitch and tone patterns in a person’s speech: where the voice rises and falls. But inflection also describes a departure from a normal or straight course. When you change, or bend, the course of a soccer ball by bouncing it off another person, that’s an example of inflection.

Definitions of inflection
  1. noun
    the patterns of stress and intonation in a language
    synonyms: prosody
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    cadence, intonation, modulation, pitch contour
    rise and fall of the voice pitch
    a break or pause (usually for sense) in the middle of a verse line
    enjambement, enjambment
    the continuation of a syntactic unit from one line of verse into the next line without a pause
    accent, emphasis, stress
    the relative prominence of a syllable or musical note (especially with regard to stress or pitch)
    rhythm, speech rhythm
    the arrangement of spoken words alternating stressed and unstressed elements
    intonation pattern
    intonations characteristic of questions and requests and statements
    drone, droning, monotone
    an unchanging intonation
    a regular and monotonous rising and falling intonation
    the use or application of an accent; the relative prominence of syllables in a phrase or utterance
    pitch accent, tonic accent
    emphasis that results from pitch rather than loudness
    word accent, word stress
    the distribution of stresses within a polysyllabic word
    sentence stress
    the distribution of stresses within a sentence
    type of:
    delivery, manner of speaking, speech
    your characteristic style or manner of expressing yourself orally
  2. noun
    a manner of speaking in which the loudness or pitch or tone of the voice is modified
    synonyms: modulation
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    type of:
    delivery, manner of speaking, speech
    your characteristic style or manner of expressing yourself orally
  3. noun
    a change in the form of a word (usually by adding a suffix) to indicate a change in its grammatical function
    synonyms: inflexion
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    the inflection of verbs
    the inflection of nouns and pronouns and adjectives in Indo-European languages
    systematic arrangement of all the inflected forms of a word
    pluralisation, pluralization
    the act of pluralizing or attributing plurality to
    type of:
    grammatical relation
    a linguistic relation established by grammar
  4. noun
    deviation from a straight or normal course
    synonyms: flection, flexion
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    type of:
    departure, deviation, difference, divergence
    a variation that deviates from the standard or norm
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