a cappella

adverb or adjective
a cap·​pel·​la | \ ˌä-kə-ˈpe-lə How to pronounce a cappella (audio) \
variants: or less commonly a capella

Definition of a cappella

: without instrumental accompaniment The choir sang the chants a cappella.

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A Cappella Has Italian Roots

A cappella arrived in English from Italian sometime around the late-18th century. In Italian, a cappella means "in chapel or choir style." Cappella is the Italian word for "chapel"; the English word chapel is ultimately (if independently) derived from the Medieval Latin word cappella, which is the source of the Italian cappella as well. Scholars once thought all "chapel style" music written before the 1600s was performed a cappella, but modern research has revealed that instruments might have doubled or substituted for some voices back then. Today a cappella describes a purely vocal performance.

Examples of a cappella in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Over the years, Pentatonix has quickly become one of the most iconic a cappella groups in the world. Gianluca Russo, Teen Vogue, "Pentatonix Releases "Evolution of Ariana Grande" Mashup," 27 Apr. 2019 The pair joined up again six years later to sing the same 1974 hit on The Voice, along with a cappella group Pentatonix. Kelly O'sullivan, Country Living, "How Is Dolly Parton Related to Miley Cyrus?," 10 Feb. 2019 Pentatonix is a beatboxing a cappella group that really, really loves Christmas. Natalie Maher, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Best New Christmas Songs of 2018," 12 Nov. 2018 During a Philadelphia show, the singer was stranded in the air while performing and, yet again, managed to breeze through the stage malfunction by singing a cappella and chatting with the crowd. Zoë Weiner, Teen Vogue, "Taylor Swift Falls During Concert," 23 July 2018 The Whiffs, as they are known, and Yale’s senior women’s a cappella group, Whim ’n Rhythm, issued a joint announcement Feb. 1 that tryouts for both groups will now be open to all rising seniors. Pat Eaton-robb, Cosmopolitan, "Yale's All-Male Glee Club Will Now Admit Women, Gender Non-Conforming Singers," 12 Feb. 2018 Midwest Vocal Express, a male a cappella chorus, will be performing a free show at 7 p.m. July 14. Hannah Kirby, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "5 Things-to-do this week in the southwest suburbs," 9 July 2018 The varied lineup of performers includes the Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffett, the Temptations, a cappella group Pentatonix, country music’s Lauren Alaina and Luke Combs, gospel singer CeCe Winans, opera great Renée Fleming and violinist Joshua Bell. Ed Stockly, latimes.com, "Wednesday's TV highlights: Independence Day specials and more," 4 July 2018 During his time at Penn, Legend was known for his performances as part of Counterparts, an a cappella group at the school, as well as his piano playing, the Daily Pennsylvanian reports. Nick Vadala, Philly.com, "Penn alum John Legend's voice is coming to Google Assistant," 9 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'a cappella.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of a cappella

1785, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for a cappella

borrowed from Italian a cappella "in chapel or choir style"

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Statistics for a cappella

Last Updated

7 May 2019

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Time Traveler for a cappella

The first known use of a cappella was in 1785

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More Definitions for a cappella

a cappella


English Language Learners Definition of a cappella

: without instrumental music

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More from Merriam-Webster on a cappella

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with a cappella

Nglish: Translation of a cappella for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about a cappella

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