\ a-ˈläp How to pronounce alap (audio) \
variants: or less commonly alapa \ a-​ˈlä-​pə How to pronounce alapa (audio) \ or alapana \ a-​ˈlä-​pə-​nə How to pronounce alapana (audio) \

Definition of alap

: an improvised, unaccompanied prelude to an Indian raga normally lacking rhythmic pulse and meter that is either played or sung as vocalise The practice of beginning musical pieces with a seemingly free-form introduction that becomes a metered ensemble performance is common to India in the alap of a raga in classical Hindustani music …— Leonard Brown, John Coltrane and Black America’s Quest for Freedom, 2010

Love words?

You must — there are over 200,000 words in our free online dictionary, but you are looking for one that’s only in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.

Start your free trial today and get unlimited access to America's largest dictionary, with:

  • More than 250,000 words that aren't in our free dictionary
  • Expanded definitions, etymologies, and usage notes
  • Advanced search features
  • Ad free!

First Known Use of alap

1834, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for alap

borrowed from Hindi ālāp “speaking, modulation of the voice in singing, prelude to a piece of music,” borrowed from Sanskrit ālāpaḥ “speech, conversation,” noun derivative of ālapati “(he/she) speaks to, addresses,” from ā- “toward” + lapati “he/she chatters, talks” (probably of onomatopoeic origin)

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about alap

Statistics for alap

Cite this Entry

“Alap.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2020.

Comments on alap

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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