Definition of cadence
- the grand cadence of his poetry
- The drill sergeant counted cadence.
- the steady cadence of the drums
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP
the steady cadence of the drums
Oars moved back and forth in smooth cadence.
He speaks with a soft Southern cadence.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cadence.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Falling into the hands of English speakers in the 14th century, cadence derives via Middle English and Old Italian from the Latin verb cadere, meaning "to fall." (Cadere can be found in the history of many common English words, including decay, coincide, and accident.) We most often hear cadence used in contexts pertaining to voice or music—it might refer to the familiar way in which someone speaks, or the rhythms employed by a rap artist, or the rising and falling notes of a bird's call. Cadenza, the Old Italian word that factors into the history of cadence, has its own place in English as well. Cadenza in English usually refers to a brilliant musical flourish played before closing out an aria.
Cadence can refer to any rhythmic sequence of words or sound, but in military contexts, the word has a particular meaning, referring to the rhythmic chants sung by soldiers in marching formation.
These chants can often help keep marchers in line with the rhythm of the march:
Early each morning we were assembled for drill, marching to the cadence of a full-throated Marine sergeant who had little use for us; what he knew for sure about us was that we would be of little value in any hand-to-hand fight.
Lewis Thomas, in Authors at Sea, 1997
: a regular beat or rhythm
: the way a person's voice changes by gently rising and falling while he or she is speaking
: an ending part of a piece of music
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