Definition of countertenor in English:

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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.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: coun·ter·ten·or

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