Word of the Day : December 14, 2016


noun kuh-PELL-mye-ster


: (often capitalized Kapellmeister) the director of a choir or orchestra

Did You Know?

As you may have guessed, Kapellmeister originated as a German word—and in fact, even in English it is often (though not always) used for the director of a German choir. Kapelle once meant "choir" in German, and Meister is the German word for "master." The Latin magister is an ancestor of both Meister and master, as well as of our maestro, meaning "an eminent composer or conductor." Kapelle comes from cappella, the Medieval Latin word for "chapel." As it happens, we also borrowed Kapelle into English, first to refer to the choir or orchestra of a royal or papal chapel, and later to describe any orchestra. Kapellmeister is used somewhat more frequently than Kapelle in current English, though neither word is especially common.


The Kapellmeister brought his hands up slowly to signal to the musicians a shift to a slower tempo.

"Schwader joined them onstage for an account of the apparently dagger-toting Johann Sebastian Bach's tussle with a bassoonist he allegedly insulted. Using a humorous German accent during dialogue, it was an amusing anecdotal introduction to the portly bewigged Kapellmeister we recognize from portraits and intricate counterpoint…." — Libby Hanssen, The Kansas City Star, 13 November 2016

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