fer·​ma·​ta | \ fer-ˈmä-tə How to pronounce fermata (audio) \

Definition of fermata

: a prolongation at the discretion of the performer of a musical note, chord, or rest beyond its given time value also : the sign denoting such a prolongation

called also hold

Examples of fermata in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Somehow, an insistent fermata of sirens manages to slink through from the street. Danielle Ofri, The New Yorker, 1 Oct. 2020 The mysterious ancient Hebrew word selah is one word for this response, which some believe is a musical notation akin to a fermata. Virginia Heffernan, WIRED, 12 Mar. 2018 The sound of a piano softly tinkles in the background, gradually building (strings are optional now) into a fermata. Cmo Today Staff, WSJ, 22 Dec. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'fermata.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of fermata

circa 1859, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for fermata

Italian, literally, stop, from fermare to stop, from Latin firmare to make firm

Learn More About fermata

Time Traveler for fermata

Time Traveler

The first known use of fermata was circa 1859

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near fermata

Fermat's principle



See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for fermata

Cite this Entry

“Fermata.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fermata. Accessed 3 Jul. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon


Test Your Vocabulary

Great Words for Scrabble

  • scrabble tiles that read scrabble quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!