Definition of countertenor in English:


Syllabification: coun·ter·ten·or
Pronunciation: /ˈkountərˌtenər


  • 1The highest male adult singing voice (sometimes distinguished from the male alto voice by its strong, pure tone).
    More 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.
    More 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.

More definitions of countertenor

Definition of countertenor in:

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day coloratura
Pronunciation: ˌkɒlərəˈtjʊərə
elaborate ornamentation of a vocal melody