ru·​ba·​to rü-ˈbä-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce rubato (audio)
plural rubatos
: a fluctuation of tempo within a musical phrase often against a rhythmically steady accompaniment

Examples of rubato in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web There is a term for this kind of derring-do — rubato — but Mickey Raphael, Nelson’s longtime harmonica player in the road band known as the Family, puts it another way. Jody Rosen, New York Times, 17 Aug. 2022 Barnatan’s extravagant rubato was appropriate for this work. San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 Aug. 2022 Franck’s romantic style calls for generous rubato, pushing and pulling tempos for expressive effect. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, 9 Jan. 2022 The editing sustains this artificial narrative with remarkable skill and a sense of rubato in tune with the Inuit’s indigenous way of life. Peter Cowie, WSJ, 12 Aug. 2022 As usual when classical musicians play Gershwin, the second prelude was played far too slowly and with too much rubato (listen to Gershwin’s performance for the proper speeds here and in the third prelude). San Diego Union-Tribune, 14 Jan. 2022 In the slow sections, Malofeev lavished expressive rubato on the music but played the fast sections straight ahead. San Diego Union-Tribune, 1 Nov. 2021 One thing that really confused me about listening to modern players approach the solo partita was that often it was played so freely and with so much rubato. New York Times, 13 Oct. 2020 Pianist Julio Elizalde made a capable dancing partner, with a subtle touch and an attentive handling of rubato. Washington Post, 23 Jan. 2020

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'rubato.' 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, literally, robbed

First Known Use

1855, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of rubato was in 1855

Dictionary Entries Near rubato

Cite this Entry

“Rubato.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

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