ca·​dence | \ ˈkā-dᵊn(t)s How to pronounce cadence (audio) \

Definition of cadence

1a : a rhythmic sequence or flow of sounds in language the grand cadence of his poetry
b : the beat, time, or measure of rhythmical motion or activity The drill sergeant counted cadence. the steady cadence of the drums
2a : a falling inflection of the voice
b : a concluding and usually falling strain specifically : a musical chord sequence moving to a harmonic close or point of rest and giving the sense of harmonic completion
3 : the modulated and rhythmic recurrence of a sound especially in nature

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Other Words from cadence

cadenced \ ˈkā-​dᵊn(t)st How to pronounce cadenced (audio) \ adjective
cadential \ kā-​ˈden(t)-​shəl How to pronounce cadential (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for cadence


beat, measure, meter, rhythm

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Cadence and Music

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 in the Military

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

Examples of cadence in a Sentence

the steady cadence of the drums Oars moved back and forth in smooth cadence. He speaks with a soft Southern cadence.
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Recent Examples on the Web

In a few days, drumlines’ cadences will echo throughout stadiums and the smell of popcorn will linger. Terrence Thomas,, "What are the six biggest stories going into high school football season?," 22 Aug. 2019 Disney+ will offer original series at a weekly cadence, plus some back catalog content from its various brands (including Marvel, Star Wars, ABC, Fox, Pixar, and many more) in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands starting November 12. Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, "Apple TV+ will launch in November for $9.99, facing off against Disney+ at $6.99," 20 Aug. 2019 Getty Images No matter what, Stephanie is ready for the comments and the shade about her new cadence. Ineye Komonibo, Marie Claire, "Stephanie Pratt Has a British Accent on 'The Hills: New Beginnings' and I Have Questions," 1 July 2019 This catchy cadence has long cemented the fates of the Tudor king’s queens—Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr—in popular imagination. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "The Six Wives of Henry VIII Are Coming to Broadway," 5 Aug. 2019 Beyond those fitness tech companies Adam mentioned, Strava also plays nice with a lot of other hardware makers, like the pedaling cadence trackers made by Wahoo. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "Why ‘Fitness Tech’ Is Working Out—Data Sheet," 2 Aug. 2019 Gunshots have a steadier cadence, while fireworks are more sporadic, and occasionally are followed or preceded by a whizz that sounds like old-timey cartoon guns. Bianca Sanchez,, "Gunshots or fireworks? How to tell the difference," 3 July 2019 Once the captain’s cadence is honed to perfection, the crew begins to function at a uniform pace. Sam Walker, WSJ, "In Menacing Seas, the Navy Relies on ‘Battle Rhythm’," 15 June 2019 The Apollo anniversary comes at a time when the Space Coast is already benefiting from the increased attention associated with a steady cadence of high-profile rocket launches. Chabeli Herrera,, "Apollo 11 moon landing anniversary is spurring one giant leap in business on the Space Coast," 10 July 2019

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.

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First Known Use of cadence

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for cadence

Middle English, from Old Italian cadenza, from cadere to fall, from Latin — more at chance

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Dictionary Entries near cadence






cadency mark


Statistics for cadence

Last Updated

6 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for cadence

The first known use of cadence was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for cadence



English Language Learners Definition of cadence

: 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


ca·​dence | \ ˈkā-dᵊns How to pronounce cadence (audio) \

Kids Definition of cadence

: a regular beat or rhythm We heard the steady cadence of the drums.

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Comments on cadence

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


authorized for issue (as a bond)

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