Simple Definition of sotto voce
: in a very quiet voice
music : very softly
Full Definition of sotto voce
1 : under the breath : in an undertone; also : in a private manner
2 : very softly —used as a direction in music
Did You Know?
It’s no secret: in our first example sentence, sotto voce functions as an adverb, modifying the verb tell. But sotto voce, which was borrowed into English from the Italian word sottovoce (literally meaning "under the voice"), can also serve as an adjective. That’s the role it plays in our second example sentence. The adverb sense first appeared in English in the 18th century and soon afterward found use in musical directions calling for whispered vocals. The adjective sense came about in the early 19th century.
Origin of sotto voce
Italian sottovoce, literally, under the voice
First Known Use: 1737
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up sotto voce? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).