from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- n. A preexisting melody used as the basis of a polyphonic composition, especially in 14th- and 15th-century polyphony.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- n. a melody used as the basis for a polyphonic composition
Medieval Latin : Latin cantus, song + Latin firmus, fixed.(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
The folk-song of olden times, springing directly from and resembling the music of the Church, was often employed as motif or cantus firmus in masses and other liturgical compositions, a proceeding which would not be allowed now-a-days.