Music & Etymology

The idea of this page (very much a work in progress) is to allow pupils and visitors to look up the origin of the words which make up musical terms. Hopefully, this will enable them to remember the meaning more reliably and to help them deduce the likely meaning of related words.

Words are bundled into thematic groups for browsing. To search for a speicific word, use Ctrl+F and then enter word into the text box which appears.

I’d like to stress that this page does not represent my own research but merely links to two online etymological dictionaries: Etymonline & Your Dictionary and I’m endebted to them for free access to the fruit of their labours.

If all you really need is to check the meaning of concepts for Standard Grade; Int 1; Int 2; Higher or Advanced Higher Music, then why not visit LTS Learn Listening Online pages, where you’ll also be able to hear a music illustration of each concept.


tempo: metronomeadagioallegro; andantelentoprestovivacegrave; accelerando; allargando; rallentando; ritardando;

dynamics: pianofortemezzo; crescendo; diminuendo; subito;

Instruments of the orchestra:

Woodwind: piccoloflute oboe; clarinetsaxophonebassoon

Brass: horntrumpettrombone; tuba;


Strings: violin viola cellodouble bass;

Other Instruments (and parts):

Keyboards: virginalsclavichordpianoforteharpsichord; organ

guitarlutebanjomandolinplectrumsitarocarinatabla; fret; bridge; euphonium; cornet; violbow; capo; harmonica;

Periods in the history of music, art, etc.

renaissancebaroquerocococlassicalromanticneo-classical; avant-gardenationalistserial

Types of composition: anthemantihpon; arabesque; ariacatantachorale; concerto; étudefugueglee; madrigalmiserere; motet; operaoratorio; overture; passion; requiem mass; round; sonata; Stabat Mater; symphonytone poemsong cycle;

suitepreludeinterludeallemandecourante; sarabande; loure; gavotte; minuetbourrée; gigue

Other types of dance:

canariosjig; jota; mambo; mazurka; pavan(e)polka; polonaise; reelsamba; salsa; strathspey; tango; tarantella; waltz;

Sections within a single composition: cadenza; capo (as in Da Capo) choruscodaepisodeinterlude; recitativethemevariation; verse;

Fine detail: acciaccatura; appoggiatura; ornamentmordenttrill; snap;

Articulation: pizzicato; slur; slide; bend; vibrato; staccato; legato; (look at coincidental link with Lego)

Sound production: acoustic; amplify; analog; digital; echo; feedback; FM (frequency modulation); fold back; interference; MIDI; monophonic; mp3 (music protocol 3); projection; quadraphonic; reverberation; silence; sound; stereo; track;


unisonintervalinversion; augmenteddiminished;octavetriadchordarpeggio;

keyscalemodeIonianDorianPhrygianAeolian**; modulation;

consonance; dissonancepolyphonyhomophonycounterpointchromaticflatsharpnatural;

rhythm: syncopation anacrusis breve (semibreve) minim** crotchet quaver hemi/demi/semi rest fermata pause

Compositional techniques: augmentation; cadence; diminution; imitation; inversion; retrograde; sequencestretto;

Types of ensemble: chamber choir; duo; trio; quartet; quintet; sextet; septet; octet; nonet;

Musical notation:

clefbass baritone tenor alto treble soprano mezzo

score; stavesol-fa;

Words & Music

melisma; syllabic; rhyme;

To be sorted: arioso baton band dolce dodecaphonic** quodlibet

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