: a musical composition in which one or two themes are repeated or imitated by successively entering voices and contrapuntally developed in a continuous interweaving of the voice parts
The organist played a four-voiced fugue.
: something that resembles a fugue especially in interweaving repetitive elements
a story that … is as rich and multilayered as a fugueHeather Vogel Frederick
: a disturbed state of consciousness in which the one affected seems to perform acts in full awareness but upon recovery cannot recollect the acts performed
fugue verb
fuguist noun

Did you know?

Fugue and Bach

Bach and Handel composed many fugues for harpsichord and organ in which the various parts (or voices) seem to flee from and chase each other in an intricate dance. Each part, after it has stated the theme or melody, apparently flees from the next part, which takes up the same theme and sets off in pursuit. Simple rounds such as "Three Blind Mice" or "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" could be called fugues for children, but a true fugue can be long and extremely complex.

Examples of fugue in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Yet more than most movies, midnight-appropriate or otherwise, this is a work purposefully designed to put you in a particular kind of fugue state. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 2 May 2024 Even typing out the name Hadrian just now set a sort of fugue in motion. Geddy Lee, Rolling Stone, 14 Nov. 2023 Stereophonic is constructed out of those hyper-naturalistic details, with each little frustration along the way to an album building on the next, like a fugue, up to the points when those songs start to come together, the play breaks open and, against all indications, incandescent art comes out. Vulture, 29 Oct. 2023 Rarely can this ensemble have shaped Schubert’s melodies with such humanity and poignancy, or given such a raw, intense account of the Beethoven fugue. David Allen, New York Times, 23 Oct. 2023 The quietly ominous rumble at the start of Tesori’s score gives way to a chorus of fliers whose stentorian march morphs into a neo-Baroque fugue. Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, 29 Oct. 2023 Advertisement The adagio, with pulsating string textures and grinding suspensions over dutiful baroque harmonic sequences leads into an aggressive, if academic, fugue. Luke Schulze, San Diego Union-Tribune, 23 Oct. 2023 Its rapturous central fugue, its searing sonority and plunging depths were all brought to gleaming life. Michael Andor Brodeur, Washington Post, 24 Sep. 2023 Our survey that evening finished well past midnight, so late that all three of us seemed on the verge of sleep, circling around in an archaeological fugue. WIRED, 28 Sep. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'fugue.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


probably from Italian fuga flight, fugue, from Latin, flight, from fugere

First Known Use

1597, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of fugue was in 1597

Dictionary Entries Near fugue

Cite this Entry

“Fugue.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fugue. Accessed 28 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a musical composition in which themes are repeated in complex patterns

Medical Definition


: a disturbed state of consciousness in which the one affected seems to perform acts in full awareness but upon recovery cannot recollect them

More from Merriam-Webster on fugue

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!