rec·​i·​ta·​tive ˌre-sə-tə-ˈtēv How to pronounce recitative (audio)
: a rhythmically free vocal style that imitates the natural inflections of speech and that is used for dialogue and narrative in operas and oratorios
also : a passage to be delivered in this style
recitative adjective

Examples of recitative in a Sentence

the second recitative of Act II The opera made use of recitative.
Recent Examples on the Web This was aided by Nelsons’s crisp conducting and the occasional arpeggio from a harpsichord in the recitatives. Jeremy Yudkin,, 17 July 2023 With this piece, Handel barges noisily through the swinging doors of the saloon of Eighteenth-century oratorio tradition, already fully at ease with the Baroque practice, begun a generation or two before, of alternating recitatives (sung dialogue) and arias. Luke Schulze, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10 July 2023 The upper limits of baritone range were successfully traveled by Jonathan Nussbaum as the humorously demonic valet, whose one-note recitative slowly, uncomfortably climbs up the chromatic scale with each line. Christian Hertzog, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 June 2023 The vocal writing concentrates on recitative, relying on the instrumental accompaniment and static harmony to bind passages together. Christian Hertzog, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 June 2023 The dramatis personae at the empty tomb are represented in recitatives and a long soprano aria. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, 1 May 2023 The sound of the cello cuts in like a pang of guilt, then tumbles down in wistful figures, becoming the voice of his conscience and delivering a recitative of grizzled remorse and tenderness. Richard Sandomir, New York Times, 3 Aug. 2021 It’s all performed in a childlike sing-songy yet occasional atonal operatic recitative. Matthew J. Palm,, 18 May 2021 The result is a strictly musical (that is, without dialogue or recitative) compendium of the luminaries of the age: Couperin, Lully, Marais, and Charpentier. Zachary Lewis, cleveland, 24 Mar. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'recitative.' 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 recitativo, from recitare to recite, from Latin

First Known Use

1654, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of recitative was in 1654

Dictionary Entries Near recitative

Cite this Entry

“Recitative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


rec·​i·​ta·​tive ˌres-(ə-)tə-ˈtēv How to pronounce recitative (audio)
: a style of singing without a fixed rhythm that imitates speech and is used sometimes in operas and oratorios
also : a passage in this style
recitative adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on recitative

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