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adverb or adjective

le·​ga·​to li-ˈgä-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce legato (audio)
: in a manner that is smooth and connected (as between successive tones)
used especially as a direction in music


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: a smooth and connected manner of performance (as of music)
also : a passage of music so performed

Examples of legato in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
The book, the story of Seymour, an ambitious would-be filmmaker and a second-rate husband, explores different temporalities, creating a polyphony of the sweeping, legato past and the rhythmic present. Sam Thielman, The New Yorker, 21 July 2023 Elijah McCormack was a radiant soprano with a smooth legato. Dallas News, 2 Apr. 2022 Staccato is syncopation and legato is like a rainbow. Alessandro Corona, The Enquirer, 6 July 2022 The velvety legato that Lisiecki lavishes on the C-sharp-minor Nocturne is impossible on Planès’s period instrument, which has a crisper, tangier sound. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 24 Jan. 2022 Didion was rewarded for her legato, in-depth studies of America’s fraying culture—the opposite of the Twitter hot-takes that elevate today’s cultural observers to dubious star status. Lesley M.m. Blume, Town & Country, 5 Jan. 2022 All the pitches are in place, laced together in a luxurious legato. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 25 Oct. 2021 Horn player Alexander Kienle demonstrated a round tone and attractive legato in his solos, and principal clarinetist Gregory Raden turned in a tenderly lyrical solo. Tim Diovanni, Dallas News, 24 Sep. 2021 Soltani’s luscious legato tone in the short, slow introduction to the third movement was capped by an exuberant finale. Washington Post, 23 Jan. 2020 See More

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

Word History


Adverb or adjective

Italian, literally, tied

First Known Use

Adverb Or Adjective

1786, in the meaning defined above


1740, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of legato was in 1740

Dictionary Entries Near legato

Cite this Entry

“Legato.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/legato. Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


adverb or adjective
: in a manner that is smooth and connected
used as a direction in music
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