tem·​po | \ ˈtem-(ˌ)pō How to pronounce tempo (audio) \
plural tempi\ ˈtem-​(ˌ)pē How to pronounce tempi (audio) \ or tempos

Definition of tempo

1 : the rate of speed of a musical piece or passage indicated by one of a series of directions (such as largo, presto, or allegro) and often by an exact metronome marking
2 : rate of motion or activity : pace

Examples of tempo in a Sentence

The song has a slow tempo. The composition has many changes of tempo. We walked at a fast tempo. The tempo of the game slowed down. The dance starts out fast and then switches tempo.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Toni Kroos is probably of the best defensive midfielders in the world - powerful and pinpoint accurate with a cool and composed head, there are not many players who can control the tempo of a football match better than him. SI.com, "3 Key Battles Which Could Decide Germany's World Cup Clash With Mexico On Sunday," 16 June 2018 The Great Danes want to run, but if Baptiste gains the edge, the Pioneers will control the tempo. Edward Lee, baltimoresun.com, "NCAA Division I tournament quarterfinal preview: Denver vs. Albany," 18 May 2018 Paul, playing the sidekick to Harden for most of his first season in Houston, took center stage, controlling the tempo and getting to his favorite spots as the Rockets led from start to finish. New York Times, "N.B.A. Playoffs: Kevin Durant Stops Worrying, and Can’t Stop Scoring," 6 May 2018 After falling to Oxbridge Academy earlier in the season 8-5, St. Andrew’s (15-2) controlled the tempo from the opening whistle. Wells Dusenbury, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Behind monster night from Justin Lugo, St. Andrew's bounces Oxbridge in first round," 28 Apr. 2018 Indiana coach Nate McMillan talked about controlling the tempo and the Pacers did just that. Terry Pluto, cleveland.com, "Cleveland Cavaliers better make some changes -- Terry Pluto," 15 Apr. 2018 This Nashville trio heads up a lineup of indie and garage bands with fuzzy, mid-tempo rock songs that combine contemporary indie rock with a nostalgic underground punk aesthetic reminiscent of K Records or Kill Rock Stars circa 1998. Courtney Devores, charlotteobserver, "8 buzzworthy concerts coming to Charlotte in the next week | Charlotte Observer," 28 Mar. 2018 Where past England teams might have wilted in warm temperatures, this one pressed with high-tempo intensity to ensure there was no need to scrape a victory like on Monday against Tunisia. CBS News, "England advances to World Cup knockout round with resounding 6-1 win over Panama," 24 June 2018 Prog unabashedly showcases instrumental virtuosity, intricate melodies and harmonies, cosmic lyrics, constant shifts in tempo, melody and harmony, and extended songs that can reach both epic and patience-trying proportions. George Varga, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Yes, meet Yes! A year after Rock Hall of Fame induction, two bands embark on Yes 50th anniversary tours," 23 June 2018

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

circa 1724, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for tempo

borrowed from Italian, "time, rate of speed (in music)," going back to Latin tempor-, tempus "time, period of time, season," of uncertain origin

Note: If it originally meant "extent, measure" (hence, "extent of time"), Latin tempus could go back to an s-stem noun *temp-es- derived from an Indo-European verb base *temp- "stretch, extend," seen in Lithuanian tempiù, tem͂pti "to stretch, bend (a bow)," tìmpa "sinew, bowstring," Tocharian A & B cämp- "be able to" (if "stretch, exert effort" > "exert sufficient effort, be able"), and perhaps Old Norse þǫmb "womb, guts, bowstring." Though these are possibilities, the sum of comparable evidence for the etymon is not overwhelming.

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Statistics for tempo

Last Updated

1 May 2019

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Time Traveler for tempo

The first known use of tempo was circa 1724

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English Language Learners Definition of tempo

: the speed at which a musical piece is played or sung
: the speed at which something moves or happens


tem·​po | \ ˈtem-pō How to pronounce tempo (audio) \
plural tempi\ -​ˌpē \ or tempos

Kids Definition of tempo

: the rate of speed at which a musical composition is played or sung

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More from Merriam-Webster on tempo

Spanish Central: Translation of tempo

Nglish: Translation of tempo for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tempo for Arabic Speakers

Comments on tempo

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something valued as if it were money

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