al·​to | \ ˈal-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce alto (audio) , ˈȯl- \
plural altos

Definition of alto

 (Entry 1 of 2)

2 : the second highest voice part in a 4-part chorus
3 : a member of a family of instruments having a range lower than that of the treble or soprano especially : an alto saxophone

Definition of alto (Entry 2 of 2)

: relating to or having the range or part of an alto

Examples of alto in a Sentence

Noun She sang in her school choir as an alto. Adjective He plays the alto sax.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Lehman is a powerful alto saxophonist, brimming with chops and compositions. Bret Saunders, The Know, "The top 10 jazz albums of 2019, plus December concerts across the Front Range," 1 Dec. 2019 Jenkin is fond of saying that in the choir there are only four parties: sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, "In Brexit Britain, the Parliament Choir Is in Purgatory," 5 Nov. 2019 The sopranos would be two women dancers; altos, a woman and a man; tenors, a man and a woman; and basses, two men., "‘Out Loud’ pulls aside the curtain on the life and work of Mark Morris - The Boston Globe," 18 Oct. 2019 Namely, his ability to perform with equal skill on alto, soprano and baritone saxophones, oboe, flute, piccolo, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon and English horn. San Diego Union-Tribune, "11 things to do in San Diego this weekend: Blues festival, ‘Kiss My Aztec!,’ Brian Wilson and The Zombies," 6 Sep. 2019 But what really made Tucker exceptional was her voice: a husky alto that, from the beginning, had a knowingness to it, honed sharp. David Cantwell, The New Yorker, "Tanya Tucker’s New Album Might Be the Best of Her Long, Underrated Career," 23 Aug. 2019 The roster features alto saxophonists Miguel Zenon and Melissa Aldana, pianist David Virelles, drummer Antonio Sanchez and bassist Ricky Rodriguez. Howard Reich,, "What not to miss as Jazz Fest gets into full swing this weekend," 29 Aug. 2019 His voice is a rich alto rather than a vertiginous soprano, with a resonant warmth and an absence of shrillness. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, "A Millennial Countertenor’s Pop-Star Appeal," 15 July 2019 Williamson speaks in a husky alto with a cadence that is part meditation guide and part preacher. Robin Givhan, Washington Post, "Marianne Williamson won’t make you feel better about America, but you’ll feel better about yourself," 27 June 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Tenor Rodrick Dixon, soprano Alfreda Burke and alto Karen Marie Richardson are the soloists. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Detroit Opera House. Greg Crawford, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit's Top 10: Cool things to do this weekend, including Jeezy, Grizmas, 'Richard Jewell'," 11 Dec. 2019 They were joined by pianist Michael Carabello and alto saxophonist Konrad Dziemian. Susan Dunne,, "Parkville Sounds and Hartford Dance Collective join forces to create 4,500 feet of shared space," 26 Sep. 2019 Marsalis took the lead on a trio of pieces, playing alto saxophone. Matthew J. Palm,, "Branford Marsalis brings lyricism, dexterity to Orlando Philharmonic opener | Review," 29 Sep. 2019 At its heart was a delicate balance between Zenon’s famously translucent tone on alto saxophone and Aldana’s intrinsically beefier sound on tenor. Howard Reich,, "Jazz Fest review: A new band makes history and lights up festival’s finale," 2 Sep. 2019 Steve Lehman Trio with Joshua White: Since relocating from New York City to Los Angeles to join the faculty at Cal Arts in 2016, alto saxophonist Steve Lehman has started forging connections with Southland improvisers. Andrew Gilbert, The Mercury News, "SFJazz new lineup is so ridiculously packed you might miss these amazing artists," 4 Sep. 2019 Players are Oliver Lake on alto sax, Graham Haynes on cornet and doussin gouni, bassist Joe Fonda and drummer Barry Altschul. Courant Staff,, "Seven things to do over 10 days," 4 Aug. 2019 The front line would feature MacArthur Fellowship winner and alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon (from Puerto Rico) and Thelonious Monk contest winner and tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana (Chile). Howard Reich,, "Jazz Fest review: A new band makes history and lights up festival’s finale," 2 Sep. 2019 The quartet features Michael Couper on soprano sax, Matt Ennis on alto sax, Brad Nash on tenor sax and Todd Rewoldt on baritone sax. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Local Sierra Club marks environmental milestones," 21 Aug. 2019

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


1611, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1724, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for alto


Italian, literally, high, from Latin altus

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Cite this Entry

“Alto.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

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How to pronounce alto (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of alto

 (Entry 1 of 2)

music : a singing voice that is lower than the voice of a soprano and higher than the voice of a tenor also : a singer having such a voice

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

: having a range that is lower than a soprano and higher than a tenor


al·​to | \ ˈal-tō How to pronounce alto (audio) \
plural altos

Kids Definition of alto

1 : the lowest female singing voice
2 : the second highest part in harmony that has four parts
3 : a singer or an instrument having an alto range or part

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Spanish Central: Translation of alto

Nglish: Translation of alto for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about alto

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