[al-toh] Music.
noun, plural altos.
the lowest female voice; contralto.
the highest male voice; countertenor.
a singer with such a voice.
a musical part for such a voice.
the second highest of the four parts of a mixed vocal chorus, or the voices or persons singing this part.
the second highest instrument in a family of musical instruments, as the viola in the violin family or the althorn in the cornet family.
of, pertaining to, or having the tonal range of the alto.
(of a musical instrument) second highest in a family of musical instruments: alto saxophone.

1775–85; < Italian < Latin altus high Unabridged


variant of alti-: altostratus. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
alto (ˈæltəʊ)
n , pl -tos
1.  the highest adult male voice; countertenor
2.  (in choral singing) a shortened form of contralto
3.  a singer with such a voice
4.  another name for viola
5.  a flute, saxophone, etc, that is the third or fourth highest instrument in its group
6.  denoting a flute, saxophone, etc, that is the third or fourth highest instrument in its group
[C18: from Italian: high, from Latin altus]

combining form
high: altocumulus; altostratus
[from Latin altus high]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

1784, "man with an alto voice," from It., from L. altus "high" (see old). Now more commonly applied to the lower range of women's voices (which is more strictly the contralto), an extension first recorded in 1881.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

alto definition

The lowest range of the female singing voice, also called contralto. (Compare mezzo soprano and soprano.)

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
Our voices have the knowing, late-night duskiness of alto-sax jazz.
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