ob·​bli·​ga·​to | \ ˌä-blə-ˈgä-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce obbligato (audio) \

Definition of obbligato

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: not to be omitted : obligatory used as a direction in music — compare ad libitum


plural obbligatos also obbligati\ ˌä-​blə-​ˈgä-​tē How to pronounce obbligato (audio) \

Definition of obbligato (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an elaborate especially melodic part accompanying a solo or principal melody and usually played by a single instrument a song with violin obbligato
2 : accompaniment sense 2b especially : an attendant background sound

Examples of obbligato in a Sentence

Noun with the babble of the brook as an obbligato, we enjoyed our picnic
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The other was the whole first section of the fast movement, a solo in F major with obbligato flute, in which Florestan recalls happier days with Leonore at his side. Will Crutchfield, New York Times, 21 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun As an obbligato of protest continued behind Wilson, Dylan, accepting Wilson’s advice, sang the insert. Mick Stevens, The New Yorker, 12 Aug. 2021 The long orchestral introduction left no doubt as to where composer Stephenson’s interests lay, the work’s first two movements amounting to symphonic statements with bass trombone obbligato. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, 14 June 2019 The aria is enhanced by trumpet and oboe obbligatos, which were handled deftly by trumpeter Steve Marquardt and oboist Debra Nagy. Special To The Plain Dealer, cleveland.com, 16 Oct. 2017 The orchestra's alert accompaniment was at one with the pianist's purposes, as was Stefan Ragnar Hoskuldsson's dulcet flute obbligato in the opening movement. John Von Rhein, chicagotribune.com, 9 June 2017

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

First Known Use of obbligato


1740, in the meaning defined above


1825, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for obbligato


borrowed from Italian, "obligatory, essential to a musical composition," from past participle of obbligare "to require (someone to do something), oblige," going back to Latin obligāre — more at oblige


derivative of obbligato entry 1

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The first known use of obbligato was in 1740

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Cite this Entry

“Obbligato.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/obbligato. Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about obbligato


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