Definition of melisma in English:

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Pronunciation: /mɪˈlɪzmə/

noun (plural melismas or melismata /mɪˈlɪzmətə/)

A group of notes sung to one syllable of text: the melismas of plainchant [mass noun]: the most poetic words can be given more emotive power by using melisma
More example sentences
  • The opulent, yet bright orchestration and the chromatic melismata around the tritone and the melodic minor scale all point toward the composer of Schelomo.
  • A successful production of Poppea depends not upon operatic voices but upon singing actors who can color their voices and make drama out of the expressive melismas and coloratura.
  • The melisma is a transposition of the notes E, F, C and B, and it appears frequently throughout the work.



Pronunciation: /mɛlɪzˈmatɪk/
Example sentences
  • The musical style of these songs varies from simple, syllabic melodies to elaborately flowing compositions modelled on melismatic plainchant.
  • The swooping and soaring melody, very Eastern in its melismatic cut, is punctuated and embellished by the other three string instruments and by the piano.
  • Bach writes the subject in one huge, melismatic (many notes per syllable) arc, and you're not supposed to break the line by gulping in air.


Late 19th century: from Greek, literally 'melody'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: me|lisma

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