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 The minute-long trailer from MGM begins with Hudson silhouetted in sepiatone in some sort of celestial cosmos, singing a verse from the title song nearly a cappella, in a moody arrangement filled as much with portent as soul. NBC News, "Jennifer Hudson commands 'Respect' as Aretha Franklin in first teaser," 23 Dec. 2019 Under the direction of Artistic Director Suzanne Gates, CitySingers will present a program of international carols and motets from across the centuries, some sung a cappella--others accompanied by woodwinds, harp, percussion and organ. courant.com, "Community News For The Manchester Edition," 6 Dec. 2019 Several small groups of people were coerced into going up and singing, handed the words to the songs printed on paper, and made to sing a cappella in front of the entire room. Steve Strauss, USA TODAY, "A few of my favorite things: Holiday office party horror stories," 25 Dec. 2019 The acclaimed a cappella ensemble Take Note! will perform a concert to benefit the new ceramics and pottery program at Arts Center East. courant.com, "Community News For The Vernon Edition," 26 Sep. 2019 There will also be performances by the North Olmsted High School a cappella group Special Edition and the Arlene Cassara Dance Group. John Benson, cleveland, "North Olmsted Noel scheduled for Dec. 8 at Community Cabin," 3 Dec. 2019 The unconventional a cappella group, Pentatonix has been known to beguile, even mystify some live music fans. Alison Medley, Houston Chronicle, "A cappella group Pentatonix hits high note with Houston fans on holiday tour," 22 Dec. 2019 Audience members can expect a healthy dose of holiday tunes from this a cappella group founded on the campus of Indiana University in 1996. David Lindquist, Indianapolis Star, "Little Big Town highlights Black Friday ticket discounts at Old National Centre," 27 Nov. 2019 The libations flowed as the Accidentals—an energetic a cappella group—got the crowd moving to tunes of Frank Sinatra and the Isley Brothers. Vogue, "Frame Hosted a Cozy, Model-Filled Thanksgiving Dinner," 21 Nov. 2019

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

12 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“A cappella.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/a%20cappella. Accessed 26 Feb. 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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