adverb or adjective
ada·​gio | \ ə-ˈdä-j(ē-ˌ)ō How to pronounce adagio (audio) , ä-, -zh(ē-ˌ)ō \

Definition of adagio

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: at a slow tempo used chiefly as a direction in music


plural adagios

Definition of adagio (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a musical composition or movement in adagio tempo
2 : a ballet duet by a man and woman or a mixed trio displaying difficult feats of balance, lifting, or spinning

Examples of adagio in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb or adjective Next comes adagio work, or slower sustained movements and balances, without the aid of a barre. New York Times, "Dancers Still Need Daily Class. No Barre? Just Grab a Chair.," 25 Mar. 2020 But in the sublime, time-stopping Poco adagio, the gentle purr of the organ beneath the orchestra sounds one-dimensional. Barbara Jepson, WSJ, "Uncertain Tempo," 31 Dec. 2018 And extreme contrasts - the fourth movement has rapidly, repeatedly alternating speeds, adagio to presto - were narrowed, giving little shock. Alan Artner,, "In the heat, Moser, Grant Park Orchestra perform a delicate Dvorak," 30 June 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The outer movements are nervy and restless, never settling, set against a still, melancholy adagio. E.c., The Economist, "Classical music A trio-sonata playlist," 21 May 2020 That’s how Beethoven said he was inspired to write the Molto adagio movement of Op. Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, "17 Works, 9 Hours, 10 Days: My Beethoven Quartet Marathon," 4 Feb. 2020 But the adagio third movement, the symphony’s centerpiece, proved somewhat disappointing on this night. Howard Reich,, "Review: Ken-David Masur starts a promising new chapter with Civic Orchestra," 22 Oct. 2019 This middle movement follows an A-B-A ternary structure where the opening material is a lyrical adagio and the contrasting middle section presents more rhythmic, scherzo-like music. Jessica Rudman,, "Review: Guest conductor, teen prodigy pianist shine in HSO’s ‘Chopin and Franck’ program," 7 Dec. 2019 The following night, his typical, upbeat confidence was again adagio. Alejandro Varela, Harper's magazine, "Carlitos in Charge," 16 Sep. 2019 In Perlman’s hands, the adagio movement spoke with unmistakable melodic clarity and moments of intimacy and stillness not easily achieved in an outdoor setting. Howard Reich,, "Classical reviews: Perlman’s triumph at Ravinia; Grant Park’s disappointing finale," 18 Aug. 2019 At each stage of class—the barre exercises, the serene adagio movements, and allegro jumps from petit to grande—there’s a code, a recipe, literal steps to doing things well. Matt Ortile, SELF, "Whenever My Life Feels Out of Control, I Go to Ballet Class," 16 Aug. 2018 Everything built to the sublime adagio whose slow unfolding was superbly controlled and brought beautiful playing from the CSO string choir, even if the hall’s parched acoustics bleached the sound of resonance. John Von Rhein,, "Review: Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the CSO in an eloquent Mahler Ninth Symphony," 18 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'adagio.' 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 adagio

Adverb or adjective

1680, in the meaning defined above


1683, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for adagio

Adverb or adjective

borrowed from Italian, from the phrase ad agio, literally, "at ease," from ad, a "to, at" (going back to Latin ad) + agio "ease, convenience," borrowed from Old French aise, eise — more at at entry 1, ease entry 1


borrowed from Italian, derivative of adagio adagio entry 1

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Time Traveler for adagio

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The first known use of adagio was in 1680

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Cite this Entry

“Adagio.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 May. 2020.

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How to pronounce adagio (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of adagio

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: in a slow manner



English Language Learners Definition of adagio (Entry 2 of 2)

: a piece of music that is played or performed slowly and gracefully

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Spanish Central: Translation of adagio

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