The English word chord derives from Middle English cord, a shortening of accord in the original sense of agreement and later, harmonious sound. A sequence of chords is known as a chord progression or harmonic progression. These are frequently used in Western music. A chord progression "aims for a definite goal" of establishing (or contradicting) a tonality founded on a key, root or tonic chord. The study of harmony involves chords and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them.
Ottó Károlyi writes that, "Two or more notes sounded simultaneously are known as a chord," though, since instances of any given note in different octaves may be taken as the same note, it is more precise for the purposes of analysis to speak of distinct pitch classes. Furthermore, as three notes are needed to define any common chord, three is often taken as the minimum number of notes that form a definite chord. Hence, Andrew Surmani, for example, (2004, p. 72) states, "When three or more notes are sounded together, the combination is called a chord." George T. Jones (1994, p. 43) agrees: "Two tones sounding together are usually termed an interval, while three or more tones are called a chord." According to Monath (1984, p. 37); "A chord is a combination of three or more tones sounded simultaneously," and the distances between the tones are called intervals. However, sonorities of two pitches, or even single-note melodies, are commonly heard as implying chords. A simple example of two notes being interpreted as a chord is when the root and third are played but the fifth is omitted. In the key of C major, if the music comes to rest on the two notes G and B, most listeners will hear this as a G major chord.
Since a chord may be understood as such even when all its notes are not simultaneously audible, there has been some academic discussion regarding the point at which a group of notes may be called a chord. Jean-Jacques Nattiez (1990, p. 218) explains that, "We can encounter 'pure chords' in a musical work," such as in the Promenade of Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition but, "Often, we must go from a textual given to a more abstract representation of the chords being used," as in Claude Debussy's Première arabesque.