ca·​dence | \ˈkā-dᵊn(t)s \

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 \-​dᵊn(t)st \ adjective
cadential \kā-​ˈden(t)-​shəl \ 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

Even so, the company has maintained a steady launch cadence, and on Thursday the company will attempt its 18th mission of this year from Launch Complex-39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "SpaceX ties its record for most launches in a year [Updated]," 15 Nov. 2018 The sleek melodic lines of the first movement, at once modest and ambitious, created a loose, shimmery web of counterpoint that melted at key moments into heart-tugging cadences. Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, "Copland’s generous patriotism gets boost from SF Symphony," 16 Mar. 2018 That should not be too difficult for SpaceX, which now has a cadence of roughly two launches per month, to demonstrate. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "Here’s what SpaceX must do to win the commercial crew race," 8 Aug. 2018 Ever notice that some college offense will line up and possibly go through some motion or quarterback cadence before 11 heads suddenly turn to the sideline? Andy Staples,, "Like It or Not, College Football Is Influencing the NFL," 12 July 2018 There is poetry, Zeitlin argues, in lyrical references made in conversation, in hand clap games played with siblings, in the cadences of a mother mimicking a baby’s babble. Cassie Owens,, "When poetry is all in the family," 26 Apr. 2018 Some exercises can have more than one workout screen due to the number of stats the Gear Sport can collect—running can have up to three screens to show pace, duration, heart rate, speed, distance, cadence, and more. Valentina Palladino, Ars Technica, "Gear Sport review: The only fitness watch for Samsung die-hards," 11 Mar. 2018 His counterpart, Uzi Vert, flexes his rock-star cadence by ripping through the track with his distorted verse. Carl Lamarre, Billboard, "Juice WRLD & Lil Uzi Vert Are Scarred Rock Stars on Their New Song 'Wasted': Listen," 10 July 2018 And villain Frank Griffin's grandiloquent, scripture-misquoting rhetoric owed its distinctive cadences to 19th century Mormon writings that Frank uncovered. Hugh Hart,, "Sure, there are guns and horses and even a train robbery, but 'Godless' is no ordinary western," 19 June 2018

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

29 Nov 2018

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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 \

Kids Definition of cadence

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

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to enclose within walls

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