Definition of sotto voce
1 : under the breath : in an undertone; also : in a private manner
2 : very softly —used as a direction in music
sotto voce was our Word of the Day on 09/28/2014. Hear the podcast!
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP
Did You Know?
It’s no secret: in our first example sentence, sotto voce functions as an adverb, modifying the verb tell. But sotto voce, which was borrowed into English from the Italian word sottovoce (literally meaning "under the voice"), can also serve as an adjective. That’s the role it plays in our second example sentence. The adverb sense first appeared in English in the 18th century and soon afterward found use in musical directions calling for whispered vocals. The adjective sense came about in the early 19th century.
Origin and Etymology of sotto voce
Italian sottovoce, literally, under the voice
First Known Use: 1737See Words from the same year
SOTTO VOCE Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of sotto voce for English Language Learners
: in a very quiet voice
music : very softly
Seen and Heard
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