can·​tor ˈkan-tər How to pronounce cantor (audio)
: a choir leader : precentor
: a synagogue official who sings or chants liturgical music and leads the congregation in prayer
cantorial adjective

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The cantor is, after the rabbi, the most important figure in a Jewish worship service. A cantor not only must possess an excellent singing voice but also must know by heart long passages of Hebrew. Cantors such as Jan Peerce and Richard Tucker became international opera stars. The comedian and singer Edward Israel Iskowitz renamed himself Eddie Cantor for his original profession and became enormously popular on stage, screen, radio, and television for over 40 years.

Examples of cantor in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Recording for John Zorn’s Tzadik label, London explored Jewish liturgical music with the renowned cantor Jacob Mendelson. Steve Smith, New York Times, 29 May 2024 Her father was a cantor with an Orthodox Jewish background. Sarah Weinman, New York Times, 15 Mar. 2024 His love of and talent for singing came from his dad, who was a cantor in their synagogue. Victoria Edel, Peoplemag, 7 Mar. 2024 Lawrence, the son of a cantor, was born Sidney Liebowitz in Brooklyn on July 8, 1935. Chris Willman, Variety, 7 Mar. 2024 The film sees Jason Schwartzman play Ben Gottlieb, a cantor in crisis after losing his voice and who falls for Carla Kessler, an adult bat mitzvah student (Carol Kane). Etan Vlessing, The Hollywood Reporter, 9 Feb. 2024 Directed by Nathan Silver, the film follows a forty-something cantor who is at a personal and professional crossroads. Brent Lang, Variety, 9 Feb. 2024 Directed by Nathan Silver, who co-wrote the screenplay with C. Mason Wells, the story follows a cantor at a suburban synagogue (Jason Schwartzman) who, while still in emotional freefall following the death of his wife, impulsively takes on a grown woman (Carol Kane) as a bat mitzvah student. Matt Brennan, Los Angeles Times, 26 Jan. 2024 And Nathan Silver’s Between the Temples, starring Jason Schwartzman and Carol Kane, takes a lighter look at religion with its story of a Jewish cantor in the midst of a crisis of faith. Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 Jan. 2024

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

Word History


Latin, singer, from canere to sing

First Known Use

1538, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of cantor was in 1538

Dictionary Entries Near cantor

Cite this Entry

“Cantor.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


can·​tor ˈkant-ər How to pronounce cantor (audio)
: a choir leader
: a synagogue official who sings or chants religious music and leads the congregation in prayer

from Latin cantor "singer," from canere "to sing" — related to cantata, chant, chantey

More from Merriam-Webster on cantor

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