ri·​tor·​nel·​lo ˌri-tər-ˈne-(ˌ)lō How to pronounce ritornello (audio)
plural ritornelli ˌri-tər-ˈne-(ˌ)lē How to pronounce ritornello (audio)
or ritornellos
: a short recurrent instrumental passage in a vocal composition
: an instrumental interlude in early opera
: a tutti passage in a concerto or rondo refrain

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web An orchestral ritornello serves as a bridge between each variation. Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, 30 June 2017

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

Word History


Italian, diminutive of ritorno return, from ritornare to return, from ri- re- + tornare to turn, from Latin, to turn on a lathe — more at turn entry 1

First Known Use

1632, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of ritornello was in 1632

Dictionary Entries Near ritornello

Cite this Entry

“Ritornello.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ritornello. Accessed 5 Feb. 2023.

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