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

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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

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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 The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has been coming into his own as a public speaker, finding a cadence to his words that can resonate with the crowds. Chris Sikich, Indianapolis Star, "Buttigieg and Sanders vie for the heart of Democratic voters in New Hampshire," 11 Feb. 2020 Dishes arrive in an uneven cadence during our meal: short-long-long-short. Bill Addison, latimes.com, "Is Spago relevant? Our critic talks through three (very different) recent meals," 27 June 2019 Just like the right cadence, word choice, word economy, all of that. Bill Goodykoontz, azcentral, "Michelle Wolf says do away with the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Here’s why," 13 Mar. 2020 But even with continuous improvement being the cadence of the industry, there are updates and changes and then there are wholesale reinventions. Jared Gall, Car and Driver, "Our 2019 Infiniti QX50 Underwhelms in its Complexity," 10 Mar. 2020 Off the court, Cunningham speaks with a soft, measured cadence and walks without urgency. Nick Moyle, ExpressNews.com, "Brock Cunningham has makings of a Texas cult hero, Big 12 villain," 9 Mar. 2020 Though Deva has regular clients, many apps have created an environment where service workers often do not interact multiple times with the same customers, or see them at any regular cadence, which is another drain on tips. Michelle Cheng, Quartz, "How does holiday tipping work in the gig economy?," 20 Dec. 2019 Grime, the musical genre that combines electronic dance beats with jungle and reggae influences, accompanied by fast, virtuoso rapping in distinctively British cadences, originated in East London, in the early two-thousands. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, "Kano’s Second Act," 18 Nov. 2019 During rehearsals for the Chicago premiere and a subsequent production in Los Angeles, Wheeler was made to measure, incorporating Barford’s gruff, musical cadences, not to mention his bad hip. Alexis Soloski, New York Times, "Think He’s a Jerk? Then He’s Doing His Job," 23 Oct. 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.

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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, "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).

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

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Last Updated

4 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Cadence.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cadence. Accessed 7 Apr. 2020.

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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.

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