can·​to ˈkan-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce canto (audio)
plural cantos
: one of the major divisions of a long poem

Examples of canto in a Sentence

the first canto of Dante's “Inferno”
Recent Examples on the Web Rachmaninoff’s variations—to plush D-flat major, and slows Paganini’s brisk tempo to the melting andante cantabile of a bel-canto aria. Barrymore Laurence Scherer, WSJ, 3 Aug. 2022 Once a week, Fredericks would read a canto aloud in Dante’s Italian, and Sternau would read it aloud in English translation. Benjamin Anastas, The New Yorker, 1 Nov. 2021 Dante celebrates Giotto’s fame, somewhat sarcastically, in the eleventh canto of Purgatory. Judith Thurman, The New Yorker, 13 Sep. 2021 Written in two cantos, the full work is nearly two dozen verses. Gillian Brockell, Washington Post, 19 Feb. 2018 The show convenes a suite of drawings employing that technique, made between 1958 and 1960: putative illustrations of the thirty-four cantos of Dante’s Inferno. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 29 May 2017 During the next three-hour lunch, over bowls of ramen noodle soup in a small café, words flowed and everything that emanated from the 77-year old writer's mouth sounded like the beginning of a poem, a delightful Caribbean canto. Sandra Guzman, NBC News, 11 May 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'canto.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Italian, from Latin cantus song, from canere to sing — more at chant

First Known Use

1590, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of canto was in 1590

Dictionary Entries Near canto

Cite this Entry

“Canto.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


can·​to ˈkan-ˌtō How to pronounce canto (audio)
plural cantos
: a major division of a long poem

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