osti·​na·​to | \ ˌä-stə-ˈnä-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce ostinato (audio) , ˌȯ- \
plural ostinatos also ostinati\ ˌä-​stə-​ˈnä-​tē How to pronounce ostinato (audio) , ˌȯ-​ \

Definition of ostinato

: 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 The song describes a man obsessing about the girl who lives in the apartment above him over a clanging ostinato piano note. Kory Grow, Rolling Stone, "Anita Lane, Founding Member of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds, Dead at 61," 28 Apr. 2021 The sound of buildings going up is the city’s ostinato—its thrumming, hammering heartbeat. Burkhard Bilger, The New Yorker, "The Art of Building the Impossible," 23 Nov. 2020 On the Pittsburgh recording of the Seventh, the ostinato rhythm in the second movement takes on a distinctive vocal contour, with changing inflections from one note to the next. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "The Pittsburgh Symphony’s Savage Precision," 3 Feb. 2020 On the final one, a two-note ostinato creates a chugging momentum, quickly joined by a racing, jittery theme. Joshua Barone, New York Times, "‘Psycho’ and ‘Close Encounters’ Roll at the Philharmonic," 10 Sep. 2019 The first movement is powered by ostinato figures, and the HSO brass played the opening in dark colors with fierce, menacing sound. Jeffrey Johnson, courant.com, "HSO Glides Through Challenging Program Of Stravinsky, 'Swan Lake'," 10 Mar. 2018 With nary a pause, Helfer plunged into an up-tempo boogie, hammering staccato notes in the stratosphere of the keyboard while his bass-note ostinatos kept rolling along, like a train rattling down the tracks. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, "A buoyant solo set from Chicago treasure Erwin Helfer at the Hungry Brain," 14 Feb. 2018 For the super-structure that Marsalis and friends built on that lovely tune featured multiple sections, including a magical, extended passage in which Marsalis improvised over a softly stated ostinato from bassist Shaw. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, "Jason Marsalis illuminates music of the past at Andy's," 26 Jan. 2018 For stretches, this amalgamation of styles held together uneasily, but toward the end, a blend of ostinato propulsion and astringent harmony created a memorable vibe. Seth Colter Walls, New York Times, "Review: Philip Glass, Easy to Mimic but Hard to Match," 10 Dec. 2017

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

1928, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ostinato

Italian, obstinate, from Latin obstinatus

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Time Traveler for ostinato

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The first known use of ostinato was in 1928

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Last Updated

5 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ostinato.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ostinato. Accessed 14 May. 2021.

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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ostinato

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