1779 of musical pitch; 1807 of persons, "having high moral principles; dignified," from high (adv.) + tone (v.).
Old English heah; see high (adj.).
"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.
updated on October 10, 2017