: 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
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.
Did you know?
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
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 WebAnd over the past year, thousands brought civil suits, according to the Associated Press, with the cadence picking up over the past few weeks as the expiration date drew nearer.—Alicia Adamczyk, Fortune, 22 Nov. 2023 Fennell has an ear for cadence, and her editor, Victoria Boydell, has impeccable shock-comic timing.—Amy Nicholson, Los Angeles Times, 17 Nov. 2023 And the integrated cadence sensor and power meter make the bike more attractive for fitness.—Eric Bangeman, Ars Technica, 16 Nov. 2023 Her rhythm matches the bumping cadence of the electronic dance track playing in the background.—Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 Nov. 2023 Advertisement These space planes, which are still in development, are being designed to fly eight times a month, versus the once-a-month cadence for the company’s VSS Unity craft.—Samantha Masunaga, Los Angeles Times, 8 Nov. 2023 All the kick snares and everything changed — the bass lines changed, the pockets changed, the cadence, the writing.—Larisha Paul, Rolling Stone, 4 Nov. 2023 SpaceX has launched more than 75 times this year, continuing a flight cadence that should see the company come close to 100 missions by the end of December.—Stephen Clark, Ars Technica, 27 Oct. 2023 Some of those might include: Price: While toy subscription boxes range in price from around $20 to nearly $200, don’t forget about the cadence of billing and delivery.—Julia Pelly, Parents, 24 Oct. 2023 See More
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.
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
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).