Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A low female singing voice; a contralto.
  • noun A countertenor.
  • noun The range between soprano and tenor.
  • noun A singer whose voice lies within this range.
  • noun An instrument that sounds within this range.
  • noun A vocal or instrumental part written in this range.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Literally, high: an element in terms relating to music and art: as, alto-ripieno, alto-rilievo.
  • noun In music: Same as contralto.
  • noun The instrument called in England the tenor violin, and by the Italians the viola.
  • See all, adv., 1.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Mus.) Formerly the part sung by the highest male, or counter-tenor, voices; now the part sung by the lowest female, or contralto, voices, between in tenor and soprano. In instrumental music it now signifies the tenor.
  • noun An alto singer.
  • noun (Mus.) the counter-tenor clef, or the C clef, placed so that the two strokes include the middle line of the staff.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A musical part or section higher than tenor and lower than soprano, formerly the part that performed a countermelody above the tenor or main melody.
  • noun this sense) A person or instrument that performs the alto part

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

  • noun the highest adult male singing voice
  • noun the pitch range of the lowest female voice
  • adjective (of a musical instrument) second highest member of a group
  • adjective of or being the lowest female voice
  • noun a singer whose voice lies in the alto clef
  • noun (of a musical instrument) the second highest instrument in a family of musical instruments
  • adjective of or being the highest male voice; having a range above that of tenor
  • noun the lowest female singing voice

Etymologies

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

[Italian, from Latin altus, high; see al- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Italian alto ("high")

Examples

  • Note 271: Nello spiraglio dello sportello si intravede in alto una piccola tavola squadrata.

    Architecture and Memory: The Renaissance Studioli of Federico da Montefeltro

  • An alto is supposed to sound a certain way - darker, fatter, richer, perhaps more matronly, than a soprano.

    Recent vocal epiphanies

  • An alto is supposed to sound a certain way - darker, fatter, richer, perhaps more matronly, than a soprano.

    Archive 2007-05-01

  • Aside from this blogger's discenrning ear and dry wit, I happen to know that she is a kickin 'alto, herself.

    Blogprops to Irontongue

  • Aside from this blogger's discenrning ear and dry wit, I happen to know that she is a kickin 'alto, herself.

    Archive 2006-10-01

  • On the bright side, I have the piano that my parents bought for this purpose and one day I’m going to learn how to play it properly (if only the music came in alto clef, I’d be set)!

    Kathi’s 8 Things « TalentedApps

  • On the bright side, I have the piano that my parents bought for this purpose and one day I’m going to learn how to play it properly (if only the music came in alto clef, I’d be set)!

    2008 July « TalentedApps

  • For all I know Ayers has relief sculptures of their likenesses in alto-rilievo style over the portal of his seminar room, and I don’t doubt for a minute that he’s a terrific classroom teacher).

    A Review of Capitalists and Conquerors, and an exchange

  • For all I know Ayers has relief sculptures of their likenesses in alto-rilievo style over the portal of his seminar room, and I don’t doubt for a minute that he’s a terrific classroom teacher).

    April « 2007 « Bill Ayers

  • The fourth class, called alto-stratus, is a thick sheet of gray or bluish color, sometimes thin enough to let the sun shine through.

    The Boy with the U. S. Weather Men

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