osti·​na·​to ˌä-stə-ˈnä-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce ostinato (audio)
plural ostinatos also ostinati ˌä-stə-ˈnä-tē How to pronounce ostinato (audio)
: a musical figure repeated persistently at the same pitch throughout a composition compare imitation, sequence

Examples of ostinato in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Although there are sonic glimpses of Britell’s signature ostinato here, they’re too often drowned out by choirs that are meant to be heavenly but just sound pretentious and grandiose. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, 1 May 2023 Male anxiety and aggression form a jittery ostinato to the proceedings, as Matthias tries to train Rudi in masculinist skills like fishing, fending and fighting. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, 9 May 2023 In the spirit of other great live jazz recordings of the past, his discography asserts those venues as musical personalities themselves: babbling patrons become a rowdy counterpoint, the looped clink of glasses and silverware a subtle ostinato. Hannah Edgar, Chicago Tribune, 21 Dec. 2022 In the impressive opening Kyrie, a catchy ostinato in the piano and a slow, wistful interlude for strings pave the way toward an impassioned choral entreaty that crests and recedes like ocean waves. Barbara Jepson, WSJ, 24 Sep. 2020 Its slow movement, in C minor, is built on a mesmerizing cello ostinato, rising by scalar steps from C to F and then back down. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 29 Aug. 2022 The song’s iconic four-note ostinato dates back to pre-Christian folklore, and was arranged into its classical musical form by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovich in 1916. Micah Hendler, Forbes, 31 Jan. 2022 Dolnick has not just a journalist’s fondness for narrative color but also an affection for England that plays, like a basso ostinato, beneath his text. The New Yorker, 22 Nov. 2021 And the film’s storytelling is as free as jazz — or, in fact, a then-unknown band named Earth, Wind & Fire, who lay down a funk ostinato topped by a snaky, blaring sax. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 23 Sep. 2021 See More

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

Word History


Italian, obstinate, from Latin obstinatus

First Known Use

1928, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ostinato was in 1928

Dictionary Entries Near ostinato

Cite this Entry

“Ostinato.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ostinato. Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

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