Definitions

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

  • adj. Music Cut short crisply; detached: staccato octaves.
  • adj. Marked by or composed of abrupt, disconnected parts or sounds: staccato applause.
  • n. A staccato manner or sound.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An articulation marking directing that a note or passage of notes are to be played in an abruptly disconnected manner, with each note sounding for a very short duration, and a short break lasting until the sounding of the next note; as opposed to legato. Staccato is indicated by a dot directly above or below the notehead.
  • n. A passage having this mark.
  • adv. played in this style
  • adj. describing a passage having this mark
  • adj. Made up of abruptly disconnected parts or sounds.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Disconnected; separated; distinct; -- a direction to perform the notes of a passage in a short, distinct, and pointed manner. It is opposed to legato, and often indicated by heavy accents written over or under the notes, or by dots when the performance is to be less distinct and emphatic.
  • adj. Expressed in a brief, pointed manner.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • In music, detached; disconnected; abrupt; separated from one another by slight pauses: used both of single tones in a melody and of chords: opposed to legato.
  • n. In music, the act, process, or result of singing or playing on an instrument in a staccato manner.

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

  • adv. separating the notes; in music
  • adj. (music) marked by or composed of disconnected parts or sounds; cut short crisply

Etymologies

Italian, past participle of staccare, to detach, short for distaccare, from obsolete French destacher, from Old French destachier; see detach.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Italian staccato "detached, disconnected", past participle of staccare "to detach, separate", aphetic variant of distaccare "to separate, detach" from Middle French destacher "to detach" from Old French destachier "to detach" from des- +‎ attachier (“to attach”), alteration of estachier "to fasten with or to a stake, lay claim to" from estach(e) "a stake", from Low Frankish *stakka "stake", from Proto-Germanic *stakkaz, *stakkēn (“stick, stake”), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)teg- (“stick, stake”). Akin to Old High German stecko "post" (German Stecken "stick"), Old Saxon stekko "stake", Old Norse stakkr "hay stack, heap", Old English staca "stake". More at stake. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • ‡ The term staccato has been applied generally to things that occur in rapid bursts, such as gunfire.

    staccato

  • Mieville gropes for a prose style in the opening hundred pages or so, meaning that the opening part of the book is delivered in short, staccato bursts, one moment enjoyable, the next annoyingly obtuse to the point of turgidness.

    Kraken by China Mieville

  • For much of the first half of the film Moon blurts out her lines in staccato style, which had me concentrating more on her acting than the movie.

    Filmstalker Review: The Devil's Rejects

  • The word made Dave remember how his own thoughts came in staccato bursts, like fireworks that rose and flared, abruptly lighting his consciousness before just as quickly fading into the night sky.

    vignette: empty

  • Instead, I find myself thinking in staccato bursts.

    Archive 2003-05-01

  • Speaking in staccato tones and gesticulating sharply, he calls for support of jihad to liberate the children of Iraq, Palestine, and Afghanistan.

    Radical Islam finds unlikely haven in liberal Britain

  • The facts came into his mind in short staccato statements.

    The Murder Room

  • He spoke in a low voice in short staccato phrases.

    Three Soldiers

  • "Good evening," said he, speaking crisply and in short staccato sentences.

    The Land of Mist

  • Trembling like a man with an ague, he lay there, breathing in short, staccato breaths, and clutching the pistol in his pocket.

    The Yellow Claw

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