Etymology
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low-key (adj.)

by 1895, perhaps 1847, from low key in some sense relating to deep musical tone or quiet sound; see low (adj.) + key (n.1). Low key in reference to a quiet voice is attested from 1837. Also compare undertone.

updated on October 10, 2017

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Definitions of low-key from WordNet

low-key (adj.)
restrained in style or quality;
a little masterpiece of low-keyed eloquence
Synonyms: low-keyed / subdued
From wordnet.princeton.edu, not affiliated with etymonline.