cadence

noun
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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Synonyms

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The stylistic trend of borrowing rhythmic cadences and production techniques from hip-hop and R&B created further barriers for Guyton. Jewly Hight, Los Angeles Times, "Is country music finally ready for Mickey Guyton?," 9 Apr. 2020 But in Kirke’s version, sung with a lullaby-like cadence and melody, the words take on a whole different meaning. Anne Cohen, refinery29.com, "The Story Behind The Sinister Song At The Heart Of Lost Girls," 17 Mar. 2020 The cadence and diction perfect, gently pulling you along. Ryan Kost, SFChronicle.com, "The (over) promise of the mindfulness revolution," 7 Feb. 2020 Featuring vocals by Nigerian-American R&B duo VanJess, the track possesses the kind of infectious beat that keeps kids dancing for hours, but also features the cadence and attitude of a sublimely produced R&B track. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "The 50 Best Dance Songs of 2019: Staff List," 20 Dec. 2019 Though the string-heavy composition on YouTube matches the art film’s cadence perfectly, the track sounds vastly different on streaming platforms, where a pounding beat and synth-y guitar riffs replace the sinuous violins. Sara Delgado, Teen Vogue, "BTS Releases Powerful "Black Swan" Song and Art Film as First MOTS: 7 Single," 17 Jan. 2020 Director Leonard Foglia found the right cadences for the opera’s heightening drama. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, "Lyric Opera review: ‘Dead Man Walking’ powerfully probes guilt and redemption," 3 Nov. 2019 This tangled style persists across Inland, which is written in modern English but with an almost Melvillian cadence. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Téa Obreht Considers the Camel," 28 Aug. 2019 But to insiders, these words hum with an almost religious cadence. Christopher Leonard, ProPublica, "Rising Profits, Rising Injuries: The Safety Crisis at Koch Industries’ Georgia-Pacific," 8 Aug. 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.

See More

First Known Use of cadence

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

History and Etymology for cadence

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).

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about cadence

Time Traveler for cadence

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about cadence

Statistics for cadence

Last Updated

30 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cadence.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cadence. Accessed 5 Jun. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for cadence

cadence

noun
How to pronounce cadence (audio)

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

cadence

noun
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.

Keep scrolling for more

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).

WORD OF THE DAY

See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!