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 The staccato pop of gunfire became a nightly soundtrack, and police were sometimes nowhere to be found or slow to respond. Libor Jany, Star Tribune, "Investigation into suspected gun dealer highlights plague of violence near site of George Floyd's death," 11 Nov. 2020 The mule responded by issuing a staccato stream of farts. Susan Casey, Field & Stream, "F&S Classics: An Improbable Elk Hunt," 6 Dec. 2020 Another layer of dread comes via some big-ass guitar fuzz, which is pared back to showcase 24kGldn's staccato delivery. Katie Bain, Billboard, "First Spin: The Week's Best New Dance Tracks From Zhu & 24kGoldn, Shimza, Rina Taniguchi & More," 6 Nov. 2020 Their flows are dramatically different, too; Megan’s a sensual growl and Cardi’s a staccato bark. News Services Star Tribune, Star Tribune, "New music reviews: Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion get sex-positive; Ray Wylie Hubbard gets wise with Ringo Starr and co-stars," 13 Aug. 2020 Public opinion doesn’t usually move in staccato bursts like that. Bill Mckibben, The New Yorker, "How Public Opinion Changes for the Better," 17 June 2020 His lips would go pppp-pow-brhoom, as staccato as a firing gun, followed by a sudden blanket of silence as his face relaxed and his lips pursed into a peaceful smile. Shoshannah Stern, New York Times, "Mothering in a Newly Quiet World," 8 May 2020 The staccato pattern of our conversation forced me to slow down and choose my words carefully, to think about their impact. New York Times, "The Universal Language of Caring," 17 Mar. 2020 As the musicians strum, pick, beat, clap, and sing, her heels break into staccato rhythmic patterns. Jennifer Homans, The New Yorker, "Noche Flamenca Gets Deeper with Age," 30 Dec. 2019

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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Time Traveler for staccato

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The first known use of staccato was circa 1724

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Last Updated

20 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Staccato.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for staccato


How to pronounce staccato (audio)

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

More from Merriam-Webster on staccato

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for staccato

Nglish: Translation of staccato for Spanish Speakers

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