fer·​ma·​ta fer-ˈmä-tə How to pronounce fermata (audio)
: 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 What Nabokov describes in his typically florid style, without naming it, is the fermata. Rachel Kushner, Harper's Magazine, 9 Sep. 2023 There was nothing unassuming about Sunday’s rendition, in which every exaggerated accent and fermata in the first two movements seemed to foreshadow the eventual descent into delusion. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, 7 Aug. 2023 In baroque usage, those fermata markings just indicate the ends of phrases, not (as in later music) directives to hold notes for extra time. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, 13 Mar. 2023 There can be no drama without fermatas of stillness. Tom Bissell, Harper’s Magazine , 10 Apr. 2023 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 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fermata.' 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, literally, stop, from fermare to stop, from Latin firmare to make firm

First Known Use

circa 1859, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of fermata was circa 1859

Dictionary Entries Near fermata

Cite this Entry

“Fermata.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fermata. Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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