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

Still, in a city where pedestrians walk with phones in hand as if self-directed by remote control, Sozzani hopes that her newest location will be a kind of down-tempo oasis. Laura Regensdorf, Vogue, "This Italian Icon Has Never Worn Makeup—But She Swears by One Cult Skin Cream," 7 Sep. 2018 In the first game of the series, Mirotic was asked to defend Golden State forward Kevin Durant, hit the boards and run the floor in an up-tempo shootout. William Guillory, NOLA.com, "Pelicans will get Nikola Mirotic more involved in Game 2: Alvin Gentry," 1 May 2018 There's also the bigger-picture issue of Blackout having the slower, sometimes even boring tempo of PUBG—and not coming up with interesting solutions to that. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Call of Duty battle royale beta: Surprisingly tame, surprisingly solid," 12 Sep. 2018 With Pat Riley’s slicked-back hair and designer suits, Jack Nicholson grinning on the sidelines and an up-tempo offense that was different than anything anyone had ever seen, the Showtime Lakers transcended sport. Nancy Armour, USA TODAY, "Lakers hope LeBron will help them reclaim spotlight of Showtime era," 2 July 2018 Save perhaps George Gershwin, Bernstein may also have been the greatest non-jazz composer to capture the tempo and hectic electricity of New York City, as the first act of the season-opening concert demonstrated handily. Marc Hirsh, BostonGlobe.com, "Rays of sunshine from Bernstein and Grammer in Pops season opener," 10 May 2018 Gabel led the musicians in an account marked by playful give and take of tempos and nuanced balancing of secondary lines. Christian Hertzog, sandiegouniontribune.com, "San Diego Symphony celebrates Leonard Bernstein's centennial with a lovely 'Serenade'," 5 May 2018 Teams know the high screen-and-roll plays, isolations and spread-out, high-tempo offense are coming with 42 three-point shots a game. Paul Coro, latimes.com, "NBA playoff preview: Watch out, Warriors — Rockets look like team to beat," 13 Apr. 2018 Using its high-tempo offense filled with swift ball movement, Hughes had loads of success with backdoor cuts that led to easy buckets. Shelby Dermer, Cincinnati.com, "Hughes blows past Carroll for district title," 8 Mar. 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

27 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

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

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to enclose within walls

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