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.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web For many years, Mr. Shannon served as the school’s graduation cantor at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. Baltimore Sun, 4 Sep. 2022 Parish Hall, 7 p.m. with cantor in St. James Church, 8 p.m. in Spanish at St. Leo Mission, 936 Genevieve St., and 9 p.m. with adult choir at St. James Church. Linda Mcintosh, San Diego Union-Tribune, 14 Dec. 2021 No singing except for the cantor in the loft. cleveland, 1 June 2020 The keening tenor part will be sung by Azi Schwartz, a cantor at the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York; and Phillip Bullock will take the baritone part, influenced by traditional Black styles. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, 24 Feb. 2023 Gary’s interests are many, including his devotion to theater and his moonlighting as a cantor at his synagogue. Jennifer Maas, Variety, 13 Feb. 2023 His father had taken a job as a cantor in a synagogue in Southwest. John Kelly, Washington Post, 11 Feb. 2023 Rabbi Cantor Lionel Rosenfeld, the former cantor and rabbi of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue in central London, was a close personal friend who eulogized Rabbi Sacks at his funeral. Judy Lash Balint, Sun Sentinel, 16 Sep. 2022 See More

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 27 May. 2023.

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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