gam·​ut ˈga-mət How to pronounce gamut (audio)
: the whole series of recognized musical notes
: an entire range or series
ran the gamut from praise to contempt

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With the song “Do-Re-Mi,” the 1965 musical film The Sound of Music (adapted from the 1958 stage musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein) introduced millions of non-musicians to solfège, the singing of the sol-fa syllablesdo, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti—to teach the tones of a musical scale. Centuries earlier, however, the do in “Do-Re-Mi” was known as ut. Indeed, the first note on the scale of Guido d’Arezzo, an 11th century musician and monk who had his own way of applying syllables to musical tones, was ut. d’Arezzo also called the first line of his bass staff gamma, which meant that gamma ut was the term for a note written on the first staff line. In time, gamma ut underwent a shortening to gamut, and later its meaning expanded first to cover all the notes of d’Arezzo’s scale, then to cover all the notes in the range of an instrument, and, eventually, to cover an entire range of any sort.

Choose the Right Synonym for gamut

range, gamut, compass, sweep, scope, orbit mean the extent that lies within the powers of something (as to cover or control).

range is a general term indicating the extent of one's perception or the extent of powers, capacities, or possibilities.

the entire range of human experience

gamut suggests a graduated series running from one possible extreme to another.

a performance that ran the gamut of emotions

compass implies a sometimes limited extent of perception, knowledge, or activity.

your concerns lie beyond the narrow compass of this study

sweep suggests extent, often circular or arc-shaped, of motion or activity.

the book covers the entire sweep of criminal activity

scope is applicable to an area of activity, predetermined and limited, but somewhat flexible.

as time went on, the scope of the investigation widened

orbit suggests an often circumscribed range of activity or influence within which forces work toward accommodation.

within that restricted orbit they tried to effect social change

Examples of gamut in a Sentence

She experienced the full gamut of human emotions. the actress's work runs the gamut from goofy comedies to serious historical dramas
Recent Examples on the Web What had started out as a bluegrass act eventually evolved into a bona fide acoustic ensemble that could seemingly play ball on any stage, at any festival, and within a wide gamut of genres. Garret K. Woodward, Rolling Stone, 20 Feb. 2024 Offering the gamut of services a person might need to turn their life around, the center represents a starkly more humane approach than the neglectful, abusive treatment federal authorities documented in Miami-Dade jails as recently as 2011. Brittany Wallman, Miami Herald, 11 Feb. 2024 It will be noted (and no doubt decried in some quarters) that the primary humans depicted are not Caucasian, but run a gamut of darker skin tones, reflecting up-to-date expert speculation on Paleolithic peoples. Dennis Harvey, Variety, 5 Feb. 2024 Available in porcelain, metal, food-safe melamine in traditional or modern shapes, a gamut of colors and patterns from courtly checks to painterly florals. Elaine Markoutsas, Kansas City Star, 30 Jan. 2024 The display is rated to cover a relatively low 88% of the Adobe RGB gamut—compared with 95% for the 22-inch model and 99% for the 27-inch—offers DCI-P3 coverage of 99%, and shows 100% of the Rec. 709 gamut. PCMAG, 26 Jan. 2024 The television adds other notable specs, including over 40,000 dimming zones for powerful contrast and an advanced color gamut that covers an impressive 95 percent of the highest TV color range standard, BT.2020. Condé Nast, WIRED, 9 Jan. 2024 Olive green, teal, carmine, wine red, and terracotta are options for the color-inclined, but the gamut of neutrals is also available. Olivia Young, Travel + Leisure, 17 Jan. 2024 The Golden Globes tends to run the glamour gamut, the red carpet serving as a backdrop for a parade of stylized, sophisticated, and funky looks. Calin Van Paris, Vogue, 8 Jan. 2024 See More

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

Word History


Middle English gamut, gamma-ut "lowest note in the medieval hexachord system, the system itself," borrowed from Medieval Latin, from gamma gamma entry 1 (used as a symbol for the lowest note in the scale) + ut ut

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of gamut was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near gamut

Cite this Entry

“Gamut.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


gam·​ut ˈgam-ət How to pronounce gamut (audio)
: an entire range or series
ran the gamut from rich to poor

probably a contraction of gamma ut, a Latin expression in the Middle Ages for "the full range of notes in music," from gamma "the lowest note on the staff" and ut "the first note of the scale"

More from Merriam-Webster on gamut

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