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for·​te·​pia·​no ˌfȯr-ˌtā-pē-ˈa-(ˌ)nō How to pronounce fortepiano (audio)
-ˈä-(ˌ)nō How to pronounce fortepiano (audio)
: an early form of the piano originating in the 18th and early 19th centuries and having a smaller range and softer timbre than a modern piano


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adverb or adjective

for·​te-pi·​a·​no ˌfȯr-ˌtā-pē-ˈä-(ˌ)nō How to pronounce forte-piano (audio)
: loud then immediately soft
used as a direction in music

Examples of fortepiano in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Mozart and Haydn both owned a Walter fortepiano, and Beethoven wished for one. Christian Hertzog, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 June 2023 Berry brought a six-octave instrument modeled on the Viennese fortepianos that Anton Walter made. Christian Hertzog, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 June 2023 Maltz specializes in Viennese fortepiano (also known as pianoforte), combining his musicianship with historical techniques. San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 Feb. 2023 An impossible challenge: Choose a single track from the dozens in Robert Levin’s tirelessly lively, eloquent collection of Mozart’s piano sonatas, recorded on their composer’s own fortepiano. New York Times, 22 Dec. 2022 His Mozart is beautiful without ever being pretty—the fortepiano’s innate pungency makes sure of that. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 14 Nov. 2022 With the fortepiano’s tang and grit, these pieces came across more as miniature tone poems than as salon confections. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 14 Nov. 2022 The concert is performed by eight PBO musicians and features a replica of Mozart’s own fortepiano. oregonlive, 30 June 2021 In both the latter two pieces, Richman, usually seen here as a harpsichordist, proved no less nimble at the fortepiano (as early pianos are called these days). Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, 16 Nov. 2020 See More

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

Word History



French or Italian; French, from Italian, from forte loud + piano soft

First Known Use


1771, in the meaning defined above

Adverb Or Adjective

1823, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of fortepiano was in 1771

Dictionary Entries Near fortepiano




Cite this Entry

“Fortepiano.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

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