Definitions

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

  • n. Music The prolongation of a tone, chord, or rest beyond its indicated time value.
  • n. Music The sign indicating this prolongation.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The holding of a note or rest for longer than its usual duration; also the notation of such a prolongation, usually represented as a dot with a semi-circle above it, written above the prolonged note or rest.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In music:
  • n. A pause or break; especially, in a concerto, a pause in the accompaniment to give room for an extended cadenza by the soloist
  • n. A hold or pause upon a tone or chord, the length being discretionary with the performer or conductor.
  • n. The sign or placed over or under a note or even a bar to indicate such a hold or pause. See hold.

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

  • n. a musical notation (over a note or chord or rest) that indicates it is to be prolonged by an unspecified amount
  • n. (music) a prolongation of unspecified length on a note or chord or rest

Etymologies

Italian, from feminine past participle of fermare, to stop, from Latin firmāre, to make firm, from firmus, firm.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Italian fermata, from fermare ("to stop"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • The _fermata_ or _hold_ [fermata symbol] over a note or chord indicates that the tone is to be prolonged, the duration of the prolongation depending upon the character of the music and the taste of the performer or conductor.

    Music Notation and Terminology

  • The sax held the final fermata, a wistful confession, and bent it into tune.

    Chameleon

  • The sax held the final fermata, a wistful confession.

    Chameleon

  • He was diplomatic, too, even reassured the oboist about her big fermata: "Take 2 bars and I'll make sure you have enough time."

    Laurence Vittes: Have Baton, Will Travel: Classical Music Combine in New Orleans

  • Sometimes he transitioned subtly from one tune to another by means of an arco bass solo from Mr. August; at other points he simply stopped playing one composition and started playing the next one without so much as a fermata between them.

    Reviving Sounds and Legends

  • Aside from the backwards 6, I love the fermata on the first cake. 16 forever?

    They'll NEVER Notice

  • Perhaps a fermata on your chest to signify "Hold me!"

    Ink-Stained Wretch

  • So we have a bunch of harmonies with no functional relationship to each other, and a couple of diametrically opposed tempi jammed together with a fermata.

    Archive 2006-09-01

  • The first section of "Eri tu" is rendered in a splendidly firm, strong-lined legato, the words crystal-clear; it comes to an end with a decrescendo and portamento down from the top F on "guisa," a most expressive turn and acciaccatura on "primo," and a fermata at the end of the phrase.

    Conrad L. Osborne: Best Opera Critic Ever

  • The published score gives a pause [fermata symbol] after the word "_ora_:" "_ultima ora_ [fermata symbol] _del nostro amor_."

    Style in Singing

Comments

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  • Hold me!

    December 12, 2008

  • afermative!

    December 11, 2008

  • Italian - stop (noun).

    December 11, 2008