stac·​ca·​to | \ stə-ˈkä-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce staccato (audio) \

Definition of staccato

1a : cut short or apart in performing : disconnected staccato notes
b : marked by short clear-cut playing or singing of tones or chords a staccato style
2 : abrupt, disjointed staccato screams

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Other Words from staccato

staccato adverb
staccato noun

Did You Know?

English has borrowed a number of words from Italian that instruct on how a piece of music should be played. Examples include "allegro" ("at a brisk lively tempo"), "adagio" ("at a slow tempo"), and "fortissimo" ("very loud"). The instruction "staccato" describes music composed of tones that are short and noncontinuous rather than smoothly flowing together (a style noted by the instruction "legato"). Staccato derives from the past participle of the Italian verb staccare, meaning "to detach," and can now describe anything - not just sounds - made, done, or happening in an abrupt or disjointed way.

Examples of staccato in a Sentence

the staccato blasts of a horn

Recent Examples on the Web

His letters each had the staccato rhythm of a ransom note. Mike Kerrigan, WSJ, "A Thank-You Note Written in ‘Ernest’," 23 Dec. 2018 Eventually that develops to the classic staccato pattern of speaking, in which speech abruptly stops and starts again. Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "Selma Blair Reveals Her MS Led to Spasmodic Dysphonia," 27 Feb. 2019 No longer a workplace of editors with plenty of leisure time and endless expense accounts, the company is surrendering to the economic realities and staccato rhythms of digital journalism. Sydney Ember, New York Times, "Condé Nast’s 26-Year-Old Man of the Moment," 3 Mar. 2018 Her head movements are staccato; her arms are like powerful wings; her hands vibrate as if their fingers shake off sparks. Alastair Macaulay, New York Times, "In ‘Firebird,’ the Choreographer’s Art Is in Storytelling," 15 May 2018 Here Helmchen was in his element, finding apposite aural equivalents for each Beethoven marking and achieving special results in the 10th, presto, variation played staccato and light, and the whirlwind No. 23. Alan Artner,, "German pianist Martin Helmchen closes Piano Series with Orchestra Hall recital," 11 June 2018 In the first, Mr. Sciarrino, clearly inspired by Paganini’s dazzling violin caprices, writes an avant-garde equivalent, with whirlwinds of jagged, scratchy-toned arpeggios that flow into slinky, sliding tones, then erupt in staccato madness. New York Times, "Review: A Tiny Garage Explodes in Pianistic Madness," 25 June 2018 His playing, particularly on the newest songs, is interestingly precise and constrained, with an almost staccato attack at times that seems in contrast to the cosmic diffusion of the music overall. John Adamian,, "From Sam Hunt And Reba To U2 And King X: A Week Of Big-Name Concerts," 23 June 2018 Follow-up questions elicited a burst of staccato responses. Ron Richmond For The Oregonian/oregonlive,, "Inside Luke Heimlich's senior season with the Oregon State baseball team," 8 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'staccato.' 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 staccato

circa 1724, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for staccato

Italian, from past participle of staccare to detach, from s- ex- (from Latin ex-) + attaccare to attack, attach, perhaps from Old French estachier — more at attach

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staccato mark



Statistics for staccato

Last Updated

29 Mar 2019

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Time Traveler for staccato

The first known use of staccato was circa 1724

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More Definitions for staccato



English Language Learners Definition of staccato

music : short and not sounding connected
: sudden and brief


stac·​ca·​to | \ stə-ˈkä-tō How to pronounce staccato (audio) \

Kids Definition of staccato

1 : cut short so as not to sound connected staccato notes … he … stayed with her, the quiet interrupted only by her occasional staccato breaths.— Pam Muñoz Ryan, Esperanza Rising
2 : played or sung with breaks between notes

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More from Merriam-Webster on staccato

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with staccato

Spanish Central: Translation of staccato

Nglish: Translation of staccato for Spanish Speakers

Comments on staccato

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