Definition of countertenor in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈkoun(t)ərˌtenər/


1The highest male adult singing voice (sometimes distinguished from the male alto voice by its strong, pure tone).
Example sentences
  • Of the four singers, the most impressive are the three guest performers, one of whom appears as both counter-tenor and tenor, excelling more with his tenor voice than as a falsettist.
  • Kenny sang in a clear and true counter-tenor which entirely befitted the ecclesiastical surroundings and added an appropriate 17th-century sound to the vocal range.
  • It was, however, a neat piece of vocal casting to use Zazzo's counter-tenor to provide an element of contrast in a piece heavy with male roles.
1.1A male singer with the highest adult singing voice.
Example sentences
  • Robin Blaze, a male counter-tenor, sings the ‘alto’ solos, although Bis's notes are not entirely clear about this point.
  • As the main emphasis of the courses lies in the choir made up of all participants, space is limited to approximately twenty sopranos, twelve altos and counter-tenors, and sixteen basses.
  • Now a real counter-tenor sings the role of Ruggiero, for example.


Late Middle English: from French contre-teneur, from obsolete Italian contratenore, based on Latin tenor (see tenor1). Compare with contralto.

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.