Word of the Day : September 28, 2014

sotto voce

adverb or adjective sah-toh-VOH-chee


1 : under the breath : in an undertone; also : in a private manner

2 : very softly - used as a direction in music

Did You Know?

It’s no secret: in our first example sentence, sotto voce functions as an adverb, modifying the verb tell. But sotto voce, which was borrowed into English from the Italian word sottovoce (literally meaning "under the voice"), can also serve as an adjective. That’s the role it plays in our second example sentence. The adverb sense first appeared in English in the 18th century and soon afterward found use in musical directions calling for whispered vocals. The adjective sense came about in the early 19th century.


As her husband headed into the kitchen, our hostess began telling us sotto voce about the upcoming surprise party for him.

"Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell had just explained, with a heart-breaking letter and a sotto voce delivery, that his marriage was in shambles." - Laura Vozzella, Matt Zapotosky, and Rosalind S. Helderman, The Washington Post, August 23, 2014

Test Your Memory

Fill in the blank in this sentence from a former Word of the Day: "The word 'keg' contains two _____ consonants, "k" and "g." The answer is …


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