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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

DeVito, who prefers to set up in the pocket, has shown improvement in the up-tempo attack despite a young offensive line dealing with an injury to center Sam Heckel. Mark Heim | Mheim@al.com, al, "Clemson vs. Syracuse 2019 live stream; time, TV channel, odds, watch online," 14 Sep. 2019 Not content with reinventing the fundamental understanding of what a striker can be in a direct, high-tempo team under Jurgen Klopp, his feats have opened the doors of the Premier League to a new generation of attackers from his native country. SI.com, "Roberto Firmino: How Liverpool's 50-Goal Star Has Helped Inspire a New Generation of Brazilians," 9 Sep. 2019 Shorter and simpler The Revolution weren’t fazed by the change in dimensions last season and were able to maintain an up-tempo pace to their game. Dan Shulman, BostonGlobe.com, "Revolution’s keys to victory against NYCFC," 6 Sep. 2019 The Golden Flashes, 2-10 overall and 1-7 in the Mid-American Conference last season, run an an up-tempo spread offense, so the Sun Devils will have to be on their toes. Michelle Gardner, azcentral, "ASU defense will have to keep pace with Kent State up-tempo offense," 26 Aug. 2019 The air temperature dropped as the New York singer came to the stage and delivered a set of cool, mid-tempo love songs that took the festival past midnight. Chris Varias, Cincinnati.com, "Bobby Brown makes for memorable Cincinnati Music Festival," 27 July 2019 Berhalter has undertaken a bold remake of the national team, rejuvenating what had become an old roster under Bruce Arena and introducing a high-tempo attacking style. Kevin Baxter, latimes.com, "Soccer! USWNT is the greatest program in soccer history, men’s or women’s," 9 July 2019 Petty liked Oats’ pitch, relishing the idea of operating in an up-tempo style of basketball that entails spreading the floor, shooting from the perimeter and scoring in transition. Rainer Sabin | Rsabin@al.com, al.com, "Why John Petty chose to stay at Alabama," 20 June 2019 Its composition and tempo strike just the right balance between intention and accident. David Pagel, Los Angeles Times, "Why the Snapchat exhibition at LACMA looks cool but ultimately rings hollow," 14 Sep. 2019

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.

See More

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.

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about tempo

Statistics for tempo

Last Updated

2 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for tempo

The first known use of tempo was circa 1724

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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 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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


fear of the number 13

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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