a cappella

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adverb or adjective a cap·pel·la \ˌä-kə-ˈpe-lə\
variants: or less commonly

a capella

Definition of a cappella

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

a cappella was our Word of the Day on 03/01/2016. Hear the podcast!

Did You Know?

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.

Origin and Etymology of a cappella

Italian a cappella in chapel style


First Known Use: 1785


A CAPPELLA Defined for English Language Learners

a cappella

play
adverb or adjective a cap·pel·la \ˌä-kə-ˈpe-lə\

Definition of a cappella for English Language Learners

  • : without instrumental music



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