tem·​po ˈtem-(ˌ)pō How to pronounce tempo (audio)
plural tempi ˈtem-(ˌ)pē How to pronounce tempo (audio) or tempos
: 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
: rate of motion or activity : pace

Example Sentences

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.
Recent Examples on the Web The Frogs usually let guard Damion Baugh handle the playmaking duties, but today, Miles orchestrated the offense, finding cutters and pushing the tempo. Dallas News, 14 Jan. 2023 Poor transition defense hurt, as Denver pushed the tempo knowing the Suns were on the second of a back-to-back. Duane Rankin, The Arizona Republic, 13 Jan. 2023 Feeling the tempo, the crowd’s pulse, Brown prepared to raise it all even higher. BostonGlobe.com, 5 Jan. 2023 The tempo tracks my reps and gives feedback on my form. The Glamour Editors, Glamour, 4 Jan. 2023 After some methodical drives, the Nittany Lions picked up the tempo and were rewarded for it. Josh Newman, The Salt Lake Tribune, 2 Jan. 2023 For his version, Lambert brings the tempo down from its frenetic original pace, and replaces the iconic, chunky piano chords with a syncopated, sinister bass and guitar section that permeates the track. Stephen Daw, Billboard, 30 Dec. 2022 The Horned Frogs want to push the tempo and force Michigan to operate at a faster pace. Paul Myerberg, USA TODAY, 27 Dec. 2022 The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Jarett Fairley plays point guard for Hoover and controls the tempo for the Bucs. al, 18 Dec. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


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.

First Known Use

circa 1724, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of tempo was circa 1724

Dictionary Entries Near tempo

Cite this Entry

“Tempo.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tempo. Accessed 8 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


tem·​po ˈtem-pō How to pronounce tempo (audio)
plural tempi -pē How to pronounce tempo (audio) or tempos
: the rate of speed at which a musical piece or passage is to be played or sung
: rate of motion or activity

More from Merriam-Webster on tempo

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