Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adv. In soft tones, so as not to be overheard; in an undertone: "There were aspersions cast, sotto voce, but knees quickly folded into curtsies when introductions were in order” ( Barbara Lazear Ascher).
  • adv. Music In very soft tones. Used chiefly as a direction.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. In soft tones; quiet.
  • adj. soft (can be used of instruments other than the voice, such as pianos)
  • adv. (speaking) quietly
  • adv. (spoken or played) softly (can be used of instruments other than the voice, such as pianos)
  • n. A direction in a score that a passage in a piece should be played softly (or sung 'under the voice', when applied to vocal music).

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • With a restrained voice or moderate force; in an undertone.
  • Spoken low or in an undertone.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adv. in an undertone

Etymologies

Italian : sotto, under + voce, voice.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Italian, literally "low voice". (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • "'Everybody's a goddam critic,' Susannah said sotto voce." From Wizard and Glass by Stephen King.

    January 11, 2011

  • I was surprised to find Teach Me Tiger the other day on iTunes. I bought it for old times' sake.

    February 11, 2008

  • Skipvia...I never heard that song but I do love the Deep Purple cheese of April Stevens and Nino Tempo.

    February 11, 2008

  • April Stevens' use of sotto voce on Teach Me Tiger got her banned from many radio stations because her whispered moans were considered too "suggestive."

    An amusing song that should have been banned simply because it was so bad.

    February 11, 2008

  • Sotto voce (literally "under voice"), an Italian expression, means to speak under one's breath or to speak confidentially. In music, a dramatic lowering of the vocal or instrumental tone -- not necessarily pianissimo, but with a hushed quality. May also denote muttering in theatrical or film scripts. Actual translation means "Soft Voice".
    _Wikipedia

    February 10, 2008