Thursday, June 8th, 2023

Expression in Music – Word List – Part 23d


Expression in Music – Word List – Part 23d

A Tonal System

Expression in Music – Word List includes just that, a wide array of words, phrases, symbols and other marks which are used when notating music. Below you will find a long list of those as used in music notation.

Music theory encompasses the idea of the emotional impact of music and it is provided for by the words and phrases used by a composer to define and to instruct performers on playing music in an emotional manner. This listing will help you as you continue to delve further into the complete knowledge base of music notation symbols especially when it comes to this type of tool to convey your musical messages as designated through them and their usage.

Expression in Music – Word List

Each word is shown in bold using the Italian language followed by its English equivalent.

Expression in Music – Word List

Arco – bow

Accelerando – becoming faster

Addolorato – pained or afflicted

Affannato – breathless, anxious or excited

Affettuoso – tender or affectionate

Affrettando – rushing or hurrying

Agevole – easy, unconstrained

Agitato – agitated, edgy

Al – to the

A la – in the manor of

Allorgando – broadening, becoming slower

Allentardo – slowing down

Amibile – amiable

Amaro – bitterly

Animo – animated

Appassionato – impassioned

Appena – scarcely

Ben or Bene – well, well marked

Bis – twice, repeat a passage

Brillante – brilliant

Brio – vivacity, spirited

Cadenzato – rhythmical

Calando – decreasing in loudness

Calmando or Calmato – becoming calm or quiet

Calore – warm, passionate

Cantibile – singable, song like

Carezzando – caressingly, soothingly

Cedendo – becoming slower

Chiaro – clear

Col, coll’ or colla, colle – with

Come – as, like

Commosso – moved, excited

Crescendo – becoming louder

Cupo – Gloomy, somber

Descrescendo – becoming softer

Delicato – delicate

Devoto – devoted

Diluendo – dying away, fading

Dimenuendo – becoming softer

Di nuovo – again

Disinvolto – free, easy, jaunty

Dolce – sweat, soft

Dolcissimo – very softly, sweetly

Doloroso – painful, sorrowful

Duramento – Hardly

Espessivo – expressive

Estinguendo – dying away

Estinto – barely audible

Festoso – festive

Fiero, Fieramente – proud, high spirited, fierce

Flautando – flue-like

Fucoso – fiery

Forza – strength, force

Forzando – strongly accented

Fuebre – gloomy, funereal

Furioso – furious

Garbo – elegant, graceful

Gemendo – moaning, lamenting

Giocoso – humorous, jocose

Gioioso – merry, joyous

Giusto – just, precise

Gracile – delicate

Gradatamente – gradual

Gradevole – pleasing

Grandioso – grandiose

Grave – grave or solemn

Grazioso – graceful

Gusto – tasteful, stylish

Impetuoso – impetuous

Incalzando – pressing on, chasing

Insieme – together

Lamentoso – sadly, plaintive

Largamente – broadly

Leggiadro – graceful, charming

Lentissimo – very slow

Lieto – joyful, merry

Liscio – smooth, even

Lungo – prolonged

Lusingando – flattering, coaxing

Luttuoso – mournful

Ma – not too much

Maestoso – majestic

Malinconico – melancholy

Mancando – fading, dying away

Mano – hand

Meccanico – mechanical

Medesimo – same

Meno – less

Mesto – sad, mournful

Modo – manner, mode

Molto – very

Morendo – dying or fading away

Mormorando – murmuring, whispering

Mosso – moved, agitated

Moto – movement, motion

Ordinario – ordinary, normal

Pacato – calm

Parlando – speech-like

Patetico – pathetic, great emotion

Pauroso – timid, fearful

Perdendosi – dying away

Pesante – weighty, with emphasis

Piacevole – pleasing, agreeable

Piengendo – crying, plaintive

Pieno – full

Piu – more

Piuttosto – rather

Placido – placid, tranquil

Poco – little or little amount

Poi – then, afterward

Pomposo – pompous

Precipitato – rushed

Pronto – quickly

Quasi – almost, as if

Raddolcendo – becoming softer, sweeter

Raffrendando – slowing down

Rallentando – slowing down

Rattenando – holding back

Ravvivando – quickening

Restringendo – becoming faster

Retard or Retardando – slowing down

Rigoroso – rigorous, in strict time

Rilasciando – slowing down

Rinforzando – becoming stronger, louder

Riposato – with repose

Ripresa – repeat

Risoluto – resolute, energetic

Ritardando – slowing down gradually

Ritenuto – held back, slowed down

Ritmico – rhythmic

Sciolto – free, unconstrained

Scorrendo – flowing

Scucito – detached

Semplice – simple, without ornament

Sempre – always, continuous

Sentito – felt, expressive

Senza – without

Sfogato – unrestrained, unburdened

Sforzando – forced, forcing

Slargando – broadening, slowing down

Slentando – becoming slower

Sminuendo – similar to diminuendo, getting quieter

Smorzando – dying away

Snello – graceful, nimble

Soave – sweet, gentle

Sopra – above

Sostenuto – sustained

Sotto – under, below

Sperdendosi – fading away

Spezzanto – divided or broken

Spiegando – spreading out, becoming louder

Spirito or Spiritoso – spirited

Stendendo or Stentato – stretching out, slowing

Stesso – same

Strepitoso – noisy, boisterous

Stringuendo – pressing, becoming faster

Sul – at, on

Svelto – quick, nimble

Tanto – so much

Tardo – slow, slowing

Tempestoso – stormy

Teneramente – tenderly

Tirando – dragging

Tranquillo – tranquil

Trattenuto – held back

Tre – three

Tremolando – with tremolo

Tronca – cut off, accented

Velato – veiled

Veloce or Velocemente – fast

Voce – voice

Volante – flying, rushing

Volti – turn the page

Vuoto – empty, void


This concludes our expression word list as well as the series our mini-series Expression in Music. We hope you will continue your study of this concept moving forward as the knowledge learned will help you to improve conveying your musical ideas through the use of the symbolic language of music, music notation.

Next Up

Our Music Theory Level 3 articles continue with a mini-series on the embellishments in music.  used by composer to increase or decrease a note’s duration within the melody of a composition. The musical ornaments adds a new dimension to the ideas presented in this mini-series increasing the available tools for the composer for creating or helping to create the musical expressions discussed in this current article series.

Please proceed to Scales in Music – a Tonal System – Music Theory – Level 3 – Embellishments – Introduction – Part 24a.

Expression in Music – Word List – Part 23d

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