me·​lis·​ma | \ mi-ˈliz-mə How to pronounce melisma (audio) \
plural melismata\ mi-​ˈliz-​mə-​tə How to pronounce melismata (audio) \

Definition of melisma

1 : a group of notes or tones sung on one syllable in plainsong
2 : melodic embellishment
3 : cadenza

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Other Words from melisma

melismatic \ ˌme-​ləz-​ˈma-​tik How to pronounce melismatic (audio) \ adjective

Examples of melisma in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The cast hasn’t a weak link, but Baráth was a standout, dispensing machine-gun melismas with ease as the warrior princess Bradamante. Globe Staff,, "With ‘Orlando generoso,’ a generous helping of baroque opera," 10 June 2019 Franklin’s four-octave range and mastery of melisma made her a force to be reckoned with both on record and on the stage. Naima Cochrane, Vox, "Aretha Franklin’s long reign as the Queen of Soul, explained in 12 performances," 16 Aug. 2018 His tonal, accessible, sometimes ravishing music combines the pulsing energy of minimalism with the sensuous melismas of ancient troubadour music and archaic dance forms. John Von Rhein,, "A gay love affair in '50s D.C. plays out to touching effect in 'Fellow Travelers'," 18 Mar. 2018 The luminosity of Christina Pecce’s soprano seems right for the otherworldly Helen; her wordless melismas at the very end are particularly effective. John Von Rhein,, "Chicago Fringe Opera's bare-bones staging of 'Great God Pan' brings more spills than chills," 15 Mar. 2018 Their brisk tempos meant engaging elite musicians who could keep up during the piece’s challenging melisma runs. Michael O’donnell, WSJ, "Review: Another Reason to Rejoice Greatly," 8 Dec. 2017 Those girls with that really soulful... [freestyles a melisma in the style of Toni Braxton] Exactly! Patrick Crowley, Billboard, "Meet KWAYE, The Fashion-Forward Singer Who Wants to Showcase Africa's Beauty," 29 Aug. 2017 Yet the girls of 5H sell their tale of unsaid infatuation with dedicated melismas and gooey production. -- Billboard Staff, Billboard, "100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time: Critics' Picks," 10 July 2017 Still, the music — high-end theatrical pop adorned with melisma and other Silk Road accents — rewards the ear and is well orchestrated by the composer for a small combo including the lutelike Afghan rubab. Jesse Green, New York Times, "Review: Tackling a Major Taboo in ‘The Boy Who Danced on Air’," 25 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'melisma.' 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 melisma

1837, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for melisma

New Latin, from Greek, song, melody, from melizein to sing, from melos song

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Last Updated

15 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for melisma

The first known use of melisma was in 1837

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