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

The duo did a long seven-mile tempo run on Bay Farm Island, and then another four miles in the afternoon. Phil Jensen, The Mercury News, "Cooper Teare wins July 4 hometown race," 5 July 2019 Cousins was an awkward fit at times in Golden State’s up-tempo, motion offense. Connor Letourneau, SFChronicle.com, "Why the DeMarcus Cousins experiment didn’t work out for Warriors," 29 June 2019 The song fragments — carefully pieced together, balancing tempos and musical keys and biblical themes in the lyrics — are a reminder of the profound and fundamental human needs that only spiritual music can fully satisfy. Washington Post, "The Museum of the Bible: The last place in D.C. you might expect to hear Queen, Kanye and the Clash," 24 June 2019 Klopp and Pochettino both prefer a notably high-tempo, muscular style that was once the essence of English football culture. 1843, "A league of their own: how English clubs conquered Europe," 7 June 2019 Another issue is the high tempo of operations in the post 9/11 period. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Fewer Than Ten U.S. B-1 Bombers Are Ready for Action," 6 June 2019 Alford said his offense will be up tempo with plenty of ball movement. Scott Sonner, The Seattle Times, "Steve Alford says he’s in Nevada for the long haul," 12 Apr. 2019 Tempo will be important One of the biggest differences between Louisville's and Oregon State's styles of play is tempo. Danielle Lerner, The Courier-Journal, "Five things to know about Louisville's Elite Eight opponent: Oregon State," 24 Mar. 2018 Center Matthew Jones also found out from the start that there's just a different tempo to college football. Tim Bielik, cleveland.com, "Which new Buckeyes have had to adjust the most to college football? Ohio State recruiting survey," 16 Feb. 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

10 Jul 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 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

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


to complain fretfully

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