noun ca·dence \ˈkā-dən(t)s\

Definition of cadence

  1. 1a :  a rhythmic sequence or flow of sounds in language the grand cadence of his poetryb :  the beat, time, or measure of rhythmical motion or activity The drill sergeant counted cadence. the steady cadence of the drums

  2. 2a :  a falling inflection of the voiceb :  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. 3 :  the modulated (see modulate 1) and rhythmic recurrence of a sound especially in nature


play \-dən(t)st\ adjective


play \kā-ˈden(t)-shəl\ adjective

cadence was our Word of the Day on 06/02/2016. Hear the podcast!

Examples of cadence in a sentence

  1. the steady cadence of the drums

  2. Oars moved back and forth in smooth cadence.

  3. He speaks with a soft Southern cadence.

Did You Know?

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

Origin and Etymology of cadence

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

First Known Use: 14th century

CADENCE Defined for English Language Learners


noun ca·dence \ˈkā-dən(t)s\

Definition of cadence for English Language Learners

  • : 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

CADENCE Defined for Kids


noun ca·dence \ˈkā-dəns\

Definition of cadence for Students

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

Seen and Heard

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


a rounded knoll or a ridge of ice

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