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 If you are called back to audition further, you may be asked again to sing two songs a cappella, one of which may or may not be from a list that will be provided to you by the Producer at that time. Mary Colurso | Mcolurso@al.com, al, "‘American Idol’ sets date for Zoom auditions in Alabama," 31 July 2020 The Harmonists, from 1997, depicts the rise and fall of The Comedian Harmonists, a world-famous Germany a cappella group that, because of its Jewish members, fell afoul of the Nazis. Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter, "Joseph Vilsmaier, German Director of 'Stalingrad,' Dies at 81," 12 Feb. 2020 The one honest-to-God jaw-dropping moment in this show came when Cameron a cappella rapped for Lauren’s mom (doubtful this was off the dome. Elahe Izadi, Washington Post, "It’s time to rate the couples on Netflix’s ‘Love Is Blind’," 22 Feb. 2020 As the audience belted back his a cappella refrains, the 35 years since Live Aid collapsed in on themselves. Nathan Jolly, Billboard, "Adam Lambert & Queen Revive Live Aid Spirit, Australian Talent Shines at Fire Fight Australia Concert," 16 Feb. 2020 Sung by the a cappella group while serenading someone in the lunchroom. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "The "To All the Boys 2: P.S. I Still Love You" Soundtrack Is Everything You Needed In Life and More," 12 Feb. 2020 The group has won three Grammys and known for their a cappella cover versions of Christmas classics. Alison Medley, Houston Chronicle, "A cappella group Pentatonix hits high note with Houston fans on holiday tour," 22 Dec. 2019 The music, from 15th to 17th century Europe, is sung a cappella, with different parts of the choir singing different lines at the same time. Kimberly Fornek, chicagotribune.com, "Hinsdale Central and South Madrigal shows bring festive holiday music," 3 Dec. 2019 With Jill Anna Ponasik and Catie O’Donnell co-directing, expect a twist: This production is mostly a cappella, with a sprinkling of oddball instruments. Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "20 enticing Milwaukee concerts and shows in early 2020," 2 Jan. 2020

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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Time Traveler for a cappella

Time Traveler

The first known use of a cappella was in 1785

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Last Updated

4 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“A cappella.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/a%20cappella. Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for a cappella

a cappella

How to pronounce a cappella (audio)

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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