Other forms: tympana; tympanums

A tympanum is the ear cavity or eardrum of certain animals. You can also refer to your eardrum as a tympanum — or to be really fancy you can call it a tympanic membrane.

It's more common to use tympanum to talk about an insect's or amphibian's ear rather than to use the word to refer to a human eardrum. In ancient Greece and Rome, a tympanum was a small, hand-held drum, similar to a tambourine. The Greek version of the word was tympanon, from the root typtein, "to beat or strike."

Definitions of tympanum
  1. noun
    the main cavity of the ear; between the eardrum and the inner ear
    synonyms: middle ear, tympanic cavity
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    type of:
    bodily cavity, cavity, cavum
    (anatomy) a natural hollow or sinus within the body
  2. noun
    the membrane in the ear that vibrates to sound
    synonyms: eardrum, myringa, tympanic membrane
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    perforated eardrum
    an eardrum with a hole or tear in it; can interfere with normal hearing and cause other ear problems
    type of:
    membrane, tissue layer
    a pliable sheet of tissue that covers or lines or connects the organs or cells of animals or plants
  3. noun
    a large hemispherical brass or copper percussion instrument with a drumhead that can be tuned by adjusting the tension on it
    synonyms: kettle, kettledrum, timpani, tympani
    see moresee less
    type of:
    percussion instrument, percussive instrument
    a musical instrument in which the sound is produced by one object striking another
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