Definition of alto in English:


Syllabification: al·to
Pronunciation: /ˈaltō

noun (plural altos)

  • 1A voice, instrument, or part below the highest range and above tenor, in particular.
    More example sentences
    • Conveniently, there were four of us, suitably arranged into soprano, alto, tenor, and bass.
    • This order has been converted to the modern score order of soprano, alto, tenor, bass in the music examples below.
    • Having listened to a cassette of their music, Simon was captivated by the stirring sound of bass, alto and tenor harmonies.
  • 1.1The highest adult male singing voice; countertenor.
    More example sentences
    • Linwood sings male alto as well as soprano but he also has an additional, very attractive qualification: a Masters degree in Romance Languages and Linguistics from Harvard University.
    • In the latter part of the 20th century the male alto voice became closely associated with the revival of Baroque opera, especially the works of Handel.
    • The opposing sides in this duologue are represented by two female soprano voices portraying Beauty and Pleasure, and by two male altos, probably super - rather than sub-human castrati, who signify Time and Disillusion.
  • 1.2The lowest female singing voice; contralto.
    More example sentences
    • The music was fun and in that situation I liked singing soprano better than singing alto, although I do love the inner harmonies, too.
    • This she held out before her now with both hands as one does with an offering and, after another silent pause, she began to sing in a clear alto, the song of her own making, which Forest around seemed to understand, listening intently.
    • The older is a soprano but people tend to make her sing alto.
  • 1.3 [as modifier] Denoting the member of a family of instruments pitched second or third highest: alto flute
    More example sentences
    • On the positive side, there is Shore's scrupulous instrumental characterisation, with a troubling French horn and a pure alto flute representing the moral struggle within the mysterious main character.
    • The three smaller works are a duo for cello and piano, Six Days in Jericho, a duo for alto flute and piano, Spilliaert's Beach, and a piano solo, A Haunted Heart.
    • All the pieces I receive are put onto our waiting lists for performances, and we have an open call for scores for any chamber works using the alto or bass flute.
  • 1.4An alto instrument, especially an alto saxophone.
    More example sentences
    • I put it in the bank until I saved up another £210 and bought a lovely alto saxophone.
    • His alto saxophone exerted a powerful influence on early free jazz in Britain, if not across Europe.
    • He was primarily self-taught beginning on trumpet before switching to alto sax.


late 16th century: from Italian alto (canto) 'high (song)'.

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