a cappella

play
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

borrowed from Italian a cappella “in chapel or choir 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



Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up a cappella? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

WORD OF THE DAY

a person who is a bore or nuisance

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • peter-bruegel-tower-of-babel-painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!