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 ostinati (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 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 Tapping out one-handed on a piano the creepy, chugging double-bass ostinato, Williams told the director, ‘ Clifton Leaf, Fortune, "Shark Week Day 2: The Sound of Fear," 26 July 2017 There are stretches in the first movement in which frenetic marimba volleys skirt atop jittery string ostinatos that break into cresting harmonic waves. Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, "Review: NY Phil Biennial’s Ambitious Wrap-Up, From Boulez to Bolcom," 12 June 2016

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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The first known use of ostinato was in 1928

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Cite this Entry

“Ostinato.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ostinato. Accessed 24 May. 2020.

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