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.

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 event will feature a variety of a cappella groups from 1 to 6 p.m. Hartford Courant, 30 Apr. 2022 Under music director Bert Rodriguez, the score is performed a cappella or accompanied by Spanish guitar and makeshift percussion, played by the actors. Matthew J. Palm, orlandosentinel.com, 29 Aug. 2021 Last year at the Shang-Chi junket, Simu Liu sang a cappella for me. Brian Davids, The Hollywood Reporter, 6 Apr. 2022 Concept: With Pitch Perfect‘s continued cultural dominance back in 2016, this challenge was a perfect way to honor (and poke fun) at the impact of a cappella. Stephen Daw, Billboard, 29 Mar. 2022 The dramatic high point, though, comes not in the chorus, but after guitarist Joe Hottinger’s intricate, spiderweb solo, when Hale repeats the chorus a cappella. Joseph Hudak, Rolling Stone, 4 Feb. 2022 Chicago a cappella started the mentoring program and competition launched by the ensemble in 2020 as a way to seek out more music written by women. Kathy Cichon, chicagotribune.com, 3 Feb. 2022 Music also played an intricate role in the soundscape, with Ruby singing a number of scenes a cappella or in choir. Daron James, Los Angeles Times, 14 Dec. 2021 The show will feature music from across the globe, including both a cappella and chamber orchestra pieces. Sofia Krusmark, The Arizona Republic, 28 Nov. 2021 See More

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.

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

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The first known use of a cappella was in 1785

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Dictionary Entries Near a cappella

Acanthus family

a cappella

a capriccio

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Last Updated

25 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“A cappella.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/a%20cappella. Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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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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