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 But there aren’t very many groups that are out there harmonizing and have those capabilities of singing a cappella. Tim Chan, Rolling Stone, 29 June 2021 The vocal troupe Naturally 7 brings its a cappella stylings from City Winery at 7 p.m. Tickets via watch.mandolin.com. Gary Graff, cleveland, 30 June 2021 Nick worked with refugees and immigrants, while Aaron got involved in the music scene as the musical director of a campus a cappella group. Rachel Desantis, PEOPLE.com, 16 June 2021 Beatty got his start in performing in a local church choir and was also part of a barbershop quartet and an a cappella choir in the community as a boy. Jake Coyle, The Courier-Journal, 13 June 2021 The young singer started off the classic song a cappella, before building to a booming crescendo with full accompaniment. Charles Trepany, USA TODAY, 24 May 2021 After this is a setting of a Whitman poem for chorus a cappella in the style of a sixteenth-century madrigal, followed by a section in which a line from Dante’s Inferno is sung by a vocal trio in the style of a medieval motet. Walter Simmons, Harper's Magazine, 25 May 2021 Simon’s 1972 hit a cappella with some endearingly shaky harmonies. Jon Blistein, Rolling Stone, 4 May 2021 Scherzinger suspected a cappella group Pentatonix, while Jeong thought of the Jonas Brothers. Erin Jensen, USA TODAY, 15 Apr. 2021

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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Learn More About a cappella

Time Traveler for a cappella

Time Traveler

The first known use of a cappella was in 1785

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Listen to Our Podcast About a cappella

Dictionary Entries Near a cappella

Acanthus family

a cappella

a capriccio

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Statistics for a cappella

Last Updated

5 Aug 2021

Cite this Entry

“A cappella.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/a%20cappella. Accessed 5 Aug. 2021.

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More Definitions for a cappella

a cappella


English Language Learners Definition of a cappella

: without instrumental music

More from Merriam-Webster on a cappella

Nglish: Translation of a cappella for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about a cappella


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