stac·​ca·​to stə-ˈkä-(ˌ)tō How to pronounce staccato (audio)
: cut short or apart in performing : disconnected
staccato notes
: marked by short clear-cut playing or singing of tones or chords
a staccato style
: abrupt, disjointed
staccato screams
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.

Example Sentences

the staccato blasts of a horn
Recent Examples on the Web Where Baraka often employs long, Whitmanesque lines, Harris’s are short and staccato. Adam Bradley Tajh Rust, New York Times, 3 Mar. 2023 Gordon’s prose is relatively staccato, with lots of sentence fragments and short paragraphs, and the action moves rapidly, covering the events of just a few days. Michael Dirda, Washington Post, 27 Jan. 2023 The song is heavily reminiscent of his uncle's sound, from its staccato Latin beats to Jackson's plaintive vocals. Marco Della Cava, USA TODAY, 30 Jan. 2023 The staccato rhythm of Italian laps at our ears like the waves of the Mediterranean. Jessica Puckett, Condé Nast Traveler, 14 July 2022 Words can be interpreted in multiple ways and rap music's staccato verbal acrobatics lend themselves naturally to a form of speech that invites political and social commentary, experts say. Desiree Adib, ABC News, 16 Dec. 2022 Wachtel, who played the simple-staccato groove on the song’s original recording, stretched out for bluesy licks, before the whole band returned to lock in. Matt Wake |, al, 1 Nov. 2022 The strings roared through bellicose staccato passages in perfect synchrony, and the brass brought a great strength to tempestuous, martial gestures. Luke Schulze, San Diego Union-Tribune, 20 Nov. 2022 Visco also sets just the right pace for her actors to deliver Marber’s sometimes staccato, almost poetic lines. Matthew J. Palm, Orlando Sentinel, 18 Sep. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use

circa 1724, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of staccato was circa 1724


Dictionary Entries Near staccato

Cite this Entry

“Staccato.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


stac·​ca·​to stə-ˈkät-ō How to pronounce staccato (audio)
: cut short so as not to sound connected
staccato notes
: made up of rapid disconnected elements or sounds
staccato blasts of a horn
staccato adverb
staccato noun

More from Merriam-Webster on staccato

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!