tem·​po | \ ˈtem-(ˌ)pō How to pronounce tempo (audio) \
plural tempi\ ˈtem-​(ˌ)pē How to pronounce tempo (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 Andre Iguodala also figures to get plenty of time alongside Wiseman, who could benefit from the 2015 Finals MVP’s passing, tempo-setting and on-court mentorship. Connor Letourneau, San Francisco Chronicle, 18 Oct. 2021 That lightning-fast tempo can lead to quick scores or three-and-outs. Christopher Smith, al, 18 Oct. 2021 While the rest of the defense struggled against the Hilltoppers tempo, McFadden thrived. Dustin Dopirak, The Indianapolis Star, 15 Oct. 2021 Bueno, too, follows Ravel’s 20-minute crescendo as wails from the orchestra pit become increasingly unfettered from the rigid tempo compelled by a snare drum the whole time. Lauren Warnecke, chicagotribune.com, 14 Oct. 2021 And then my second album was all in Spanish, and most of the records on that are all moombahton tempo. Ana Monroy Yglesias, Billboard, 6 Oct. 2021 The Rebels came in leading the nation with 635 yards and 53 points per game but couldn't get that tempo going consistently this time. John Zenor, ajc, 3 Oct. 2021 Their performance, with the music’s shifting mood and tempo, uncannily captures the original VU version’s harrowing sense of rush and release from the point of view of an addict. David Chiu, Forbes, 28 Sep. 2021 Beasley starred as a dual threat quarterback in the late 1990s at Cactus, where coach Larry Fetkenhier was one of the first Arizona high school coaches to run tempo on offense. Richard Obert, The Arizona Republic, 27 Sep. 2021

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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The first known use of tempo was circa 1724

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Dictionary Entries Near tempo

temple tree



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Last Updated

20 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Tempo.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tempo. Accessed 21 Oct. 2021.

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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 : pace


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

More from Merriam-Webster on tempo

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for tempo

Nglish: Translation of tempo for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of tempo for Arabic Speakers


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