\ ˈfyüg \

Definition of fugue 

1a : a musical composition in which one or two themes are repeated or imitated by successively entering voices and contrapuntally developed in a continuous interweaving of the voice parts The organist played a four-voiced fugue.

b : something that resembles a fugue especially in interweaving repetitive elements a story that … is as rich and multilayered as a fugue —Heather Vogel Frederick

2 : a disturbed state of consciousness in which the one affected seems to perform acts in full awareness but upon recovery cannot recollect the acts performed

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Other words from fugue

fugue verb
fuguist \ˈfyü-gist \ noun

fugue and Bach

Bach and Handel composed many fugues for harpsichord and organ in which the various parts (or voices) seem to flee from and chase each other in an intricate dance. Each part, after it has stated the theme or melody, apparently flees from the next part, which takes up the same theme and sets off in pursuit. Simple rounds such as "Three Blind Mice" or "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" could be called fugues for children, but a true fugue can be long and extremely complex.

Examples of fugue in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Centuries’ worth of contrapuntal development that led to Bach’s sublime fugues and Bartok’s wondrous string quartets was seemingly discarded by the stroke of a musical anarchist. Mark Swed, latimes.com, "Four radical and radically original pieces of music that blew up the modernist status quo in 1968," 21 Apr. 2018 In March, Melnikov will perform the complete preludes and fugues by Dmitri Shostakovich in one gulp. Patrick Neas, kansascity, "Friends of Chamber Music announce a ‘Transcendant’ 2018-19 season," 2 June 2018 Throughout, The Staircase maintains a limpid clarity that leaves open the possibility of both Michael Peterson’s perfect innocence and total complicity, which puts the viewer in the awful, fugue-like gray area of constant reckoning. Sonia Saraiya, HWD, "Review: Whether Old or New, The Staircase Offers No Easy Answers," 8 June 2018 Vampyr opens in a wild fugue, as Reid's bloodlust forces him to murder his own sister, and then finds himself on the run from vampire hunters out for revenge. Julie Muncy, WIRED, "The Messiness of Vampyr Doesn't Weaken Its Bite," 7 June 2018 Beyond that, the pianist also a proved a digital wizard, voicing lines in his one hand the way Baroque masters play fugues with two. Zachary Lewis, cleveland.com, "Cleveland Orchestra shines in Ravel, with notable assists from Pintscher, Thibaudet (review)," 23 Feb. 2018 The twists and turns make for a fantastic read, but there is also the underlying fugue of displacement. Karin Slaughter, chicagotribune.com, "What Stephen King gets right - and wrong - in 'The Outsider'," 23 May 2018 Flat Major gave Solzhenitsyn a powerful chance to contrast the proud chorale-like prelude with a fugue of fearsome clusters. Peter Dobrin, Philly.com, "Ignat Solzhenitsyn returns to town for PCMS recital," 14 Jan. 2018 That golden tone drew you in at the start of the fugue in the No. 1 in C Major. Peter Dobrin, Philly.com, "Ignat Solzhenitsyn returns to town for PCMS recital," 14 Jan. 2018

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

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First Known Use of fugue

1597, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for fugue

probably from Italian fuga flight, fugue, from Latin, flight, from fugere

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Dictionary Entries near fugue





fuguing tune



Statistics for fugue

Last Updated

26 Aug 2018

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Time Traveler for fugue

The first known use of fugue was in 1597

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More Definitions for fugue



English Language Learners Definition of fugue

: a piece of music in which tunes are repeated in complex patterns


\ ˈfyüg \

Medical Definition of fugue 

: a disturbed state of consciousness in which the one affected seems to perform acts in full awareness but upon recovery cannot recollect them

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More from Merriam-Webster on fugue

Spanish Central: Translation of fugue

Nglish: Translation of fugue for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about fugue

Comments on fugue

What made you want to look up fugue? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the setting in which something occurs

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