tem·​po | \ ˈtem-(ˌ)pō \
plural tempi\ ˈtem-​(ˌ)pē \ 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

Young soccer fans have mimicked the look that’s as eye-catching as the forward’s use of innate speed to change the tempo of matches and give Seattle opportunities to score. Jayda Evans, The Seattle Times, "Jasmyne Spencer brings more power to the Seattle Reign FC," 21 Aug. 2018 To their credit, the tempo of music, gallows humor and revealing of psychic scars is precisely balanced. OregonLive.com, "'Lady Day' tells Billie Holiday's story in richly layered, unforgettable show," 4 June 2018 The increased tempo of attacks appeared to be part of an offensive announced by the Taliban on April 25 in a statement rejecting recent government peace overtures. Zabihullah Ghazi, BostonGlobe.com, "Taliban kill over 100 Afghan soldiers and police officers in 1 week," 13 May 2018 Part of the appeal of jazz, at least in numbers known as one-steps, was its fast tempos, which almost dared dancers to keep pace with the beat. John Check, WSJ, "‘Making Music American’ Review: Turning Swords Into Saxophones," 28 Dec. 2018 New coordinator Mark Helfrich, a longtime Division I quarterbacks coach, will help the Bears speed up their tempo. Rich Campbell, chicagotribune.com, "Mitch Trubisky's ability to command Matt Nagy's offense will define the Bears' season," 11 July 2018 The finale, with its breathtakingly fast tempo, was incandescent. Zachary Lewis, cleveland.com, "Cleveland Orchestra keeps the flame burning as 'The Prometheus Project' continues (review)," 14 May 2018 Amid the cold rain and driving headwind, many of the traditional race favorites struggled to complete the 26.2-mile course with their usual tempo. Hayden Bird, BostonGlobe.com, "What Desiree Linden and the rest of the Boston Marathon winners had to say about the weather," 16 Apr. 2018 The music often has an unusual tempo, with a 7- or 11-count, unlike the more typical 4- or 6-count in Western music. Nicole Tsong, The Seattle Times, "Balkan dance requires fancy footwork — and the ability to count to 4 in several languages," 8 Oct. 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

Italian, literally, time, from Latin tempus

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Statistics for tempo

Last Updated

23 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for tempo

The first known use of tempo was circa 1724

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More Definitions for tempo



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 \
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

What made you want to look up tempo? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to deny responsibility for

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