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 conductor urged us to pronounce each percussive syllable and not let the tempo drag. Bob Morris, New York Times, "A Choir Finds a Way to Sing. Just Ignore the Steering Wheel.," 7 Oct. 2020 In order to have a chance at picking up the win, the Frogs will have to slow the Longhorns throughout the whole game and match the tempo of Texas' quick offense. Katherine Griffith, Dallas News, "TCU prediction: Will Horned Frogs bounce back from season-opening loss to upset No. 9 Texas?," 1 Oct. 2020 The pre-chorus tempo change, the introduction of that iconic horn riff and Valli's sudden change in vocal register and urgency are among the record’s most notable features. Paul Grein, Billboard, "Surf Mesa Spreads the Love for 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You,' Bringing the Modern-Day Standard Back to Top 40," 29 Sep. 2020 The latter is slowed down to strut along at the same deliberate tempo as the former. Keith Spera, NOLA.com, "New Orleans all-star band the Magnificent 7's new CD a reminder of how fun live music can be," 28 Sep. 2020 In relief, Foles was much better, moving the offense with more efficiency and tempo. Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY, "NFL Week 3 winners, losers: Seahawks' Russell Wilson makes MVP case; Bears' Mitchell Trubisky flops," 28 Sep. 2020 There was non-stop running, an accelerated tempo in every drill and no rest for the weary. Rainer Sabin, Detroit Free Press, "Mel Tucker brings heat in 1st Michigan State football practice since season reinstatement," 22 Sep. 2020 If the tempo of the show starts to sag, a single quick glance between the two sparks a pickup in the pace. Harvey Mackay, Star Tribune, "The essentials of teamwork in the business world," 20 Sep. 2020 Undeterred, the Lions flipped Okudah to the right side of their defense Sunday and asked him to cover All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who stays primarily on the left side of the formation in Arizona’s up-tempo offense. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press, "Jeff Okudah, Detroit Lions bounce back: 'I was tired of being disrespected by everyone'," 28 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for tempo

Time Traveler

The first known use of tempo was circa 1724

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Statistics for tempo

Last Updated

19 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Tempo.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tempo. Accessed 22 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for tempo


How to pronounce tempo (audio)

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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