sotto voce

adverb or adjective

sot·​to vo·​ce ˌsä-tō-ˈvō-chē How to pronounce sotto voce (audio)
: under the breath : in an undertone
also : in a private manner
: very softly
used as a direction in music

Did you know?

It’s no secret: sotto voce functions both as an adverb ("she began telling us sotto voce about the upcoming surprise party") and as an adjective ("he read the letter in a sotto voce delivery"). Borrowed into English from the Italian word sottovoce (literally meaning "under the voice"), 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.

Examples of sotto voce in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web One crucial difference between Blair’s film and the original is that here the lead actor voices both iterations of his character, and the contrast between his appearance and his sotto voce line delivery is a constant reminder of the man behind the mutant. Michael Nordine, Variety, 21 Sep. 2023 The classic Calatrava, with its sleek lines and pure form, is a horological master class in sotto voce eleganza. Leena Kim, Town & Country, 1 Sep. 2023 The sotto voce liftoff exhaust note in Dynamic mode raises goose pimples, but then the noise at high revs kills the acoustic joy. Georg Kacher, Car and Driver, 12 May 2023 That same week Loro Piana, the century-old stalwart of sotto voce eleganza, opened a new boutique in the town. Leena Kim, Town & Country, 25 Apr. 2023 Bell says, dropping into sotto voce. Michelle Ruiz, SELF, 3 May 2021 Theroux says sotto voce to Heller. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 30 Apr. 2021 Scalpers ask, sotto voce, to buy or sell. Ed Caesar, The New Yorker, 7 Aug. 2020 There were some things (spoken about sotto voce) to like about the pandemic shutdown. Joel Achenbach, Anchorage Daily News, 12 Mar. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Italian sottovoce, literally, under the voice

First Known Use

1737, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of sotto voce was in 1737


Dictionary Entries Near sotto voce

Cite this Entry

“Sotto voce.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition

sotto voce

adverb or adjective
sot·​to vo·​ce ˌsät-ō-ˈvō-chē How to pronounce sotto voce (audio)
: in a whisper
also : in private
: very softly
play the last part sotto voce

from Italian sottovoce, literally, "under the voice"

More from Merriam-Webster on sotto voce

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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