con·​tin·​uo kən-ˈtin-yə-ˌwō How to pronounce continuo (audio)
plural continuos
: a bass part (as for a keyboard or stringed instrument) used especially in baroque ensemble music and consisting of a succession of bass notes with figures that indicate the required chords

called also figured bass, thoroughbass

Examples of continuo in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The continuo group — cellist Guy Fishman and organist Ian Watson — did yeoman work throughout the program. David Weininger,, 8 Oct. 2022 The continuo was judiciously realized by Michael Sponseller on harpsichord and Jacob Street on organ. Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune, 21 Mar. 2022 They’re normally performed unaccompanied these days, but in Bach’s day they were supported with discreet continuo. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, 4 Oct. 2021 This is where soprano Anna Christofaro first emerged, lending soulful gentleness to a pair of arias from Bach cantatas with Merblum and Boehnke laying a continuo foundation beneath her. Rob Hubbard, Star Tribune, 22 Feb. 2021 Listen out for the slow middle movement without a continuo, solemn and still, set against a charming gavotte to wrap up. E.c., The Economist, 21 May 2020 Scored for five voices, five unspecified instrumental parts and basso continuo, the music is reverent and wistful. New York Times, 20 Mar. 2020 Finally, the all-Bach program showcased BCSD’s brand new continuo organ, a small portable pipe organ used to play harmony in Baroque music. San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 Oct. 2019 From the harpsichord, Bezuidenhout deftly carried out the double duties of continuo and conductor, the symmetrical orchestra played with plenty of heart, and as soloists, the eight singers were unassailable. Globe Staff,, 12 June 2019 See More

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

Word History


borrowed from Italian, short for basso continuo "continuous bass"

First Known Use

circa 1724, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of continuo was circa 1724

Dictionary Entries Near continuo

Cite this Entry

“Continuo.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

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