ca·​dence ˈkā-dᵊn(t)s How to pronounce cadence (audio)
plural cadences
: the beat, time, or measure of rhythmical motion or activity
The drill sergeant counted cadence.
the steady cadence of the drums
: a rhythmic sequence or flow of sounds in language
the grand cadence of his poetry
: a regular and repeated pattern of activity
In addition to our weekly cadence, we take a step back once a quarter to think about our platform a little more strategically.David Vandegrift
To meet its cadence of a launch every other week, SpaceX must build at least two of these each month.Eric Berger
Then in the evening, it's off to the boxing gym or a sparring session for two to three more hours. In recent years, she's kept a cadence of two to four fights annually, her last being a loss for the WBC light middleweight world title in Poland in September.Deanna Cioppa
: a falling inflection of the voice
: 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
: the modulated and rhythmic recurrence of a sound especially in nature
cadenced adjective
cadential adjective

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Cadence and Music

A cadence is a rhythm, or a flow of words or music, in a sequence that is regular (or steady as it were). But lest we be mistaken, cadence also lends its meaning to the sounds of Mother Nature (such as birdsong) to be sure. Cadence comes from Middle English borrowed from Medieval Latin’s own cadentia, a lovely word that means “rhythm in verse.” (You may also recognize a cadence cousin, sweet cadenza, as a word that is familiar in the opera universe.) And from there our cadence traces just a little further backward to the Latin verb cadere “to sound rhythmically, to fall.” Praise the rising and the falling of the lilting in our language, whether singing songs or rhyming or opining on it all.

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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.
Recent Examples on the Web The lead prosecutor in the case, Leo J. Wise, who normally speaks with an unhurried, high-volume cadence, seemed to lower his voice and rush his delivery to read their emotionally raw, frantic conversations. Zach Montague, New York Times, 6 June 2024 In the past, that would have spelled trouble for recruiters, whose job safety was largely dependent on the whims of their company’s hiring cadence. Maria Aspan, Fortune, 6 June 2024 Some anglers prefer to use a slower gear ratio reel in the 6:1 range to help make this cadence feel more natural. Shaye Baker, Field & Stream, 30 May 2024 This inward shift, this internalization of an author’s voice, was made possible by the gradual standardization of punctuation, which allowed writing to become less dependent upon the cadences of speech and gave writers the freedom to explore more private realms of thought. Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times, 29 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for cadence 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cadence.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, "rhythm of prose or verse, rhetorical periods," borrowed from Medieval Latin cadentia "rhythm in verse," noun derivative (formally feminine singular from neuter plural) of Latin cadent-, cadens, present participle of cadere "to fall, sound rhythmically, end, terminate (of words or clauses)" — more at chance entry 1

Note: Since at least the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1888), this word has been attributed to Italian, either directly or through French. However, attestations of French cadence and Italian cadenza are significantly later than the first occurrences of cadence in Middle English (ca. 1390) and early Scots (ca. 1420). (The word also occurs in Chaucer's House of Fame, composed ca. 1380 and attested earliest in a manuscript of ca. 1450.) In Medieval Latin cadentia appears in the approximate sense "verse rhythm" (pedum cadentia) in John of Garland's Parisiana poetria (composed ca. 1234).

First Known Use

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

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


Dictionary Entries Near cadence

Cite this Entry

“Cadence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


ca·​dence ˈkād-ᵊn(t)s How to pronounce cadence (audio)
: rhythmic flow of sounds : the beat of rhythmic motion or activity
: a melodic or rhythmic pattern that serves as the close of a musical phrase or composition
cadenced adjective

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