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7 Essential Words of Fall

alto

[al-toh] /ˈæl toʊ/
noun, plural altos.
1.
the lowest female voice; contralto.
2.
the highest male voice; countertenor.
3.
a singer with such a voice.
4.
a musical part for such a voice.
5.
the second highest of the four parts of a mixed vocal chorus, or the voices or persons singing this part.
6.
the second highest instrument in a family of musical instruments, as the viola in the violin family or the althorn in the cornet family.
adjective
7.
of, pertaining to, or having the tonal range of the alto.
8.
(of a musical instrument) second highest in a family of musical instruments:
alto saxophone.
Origin
1775-1785
1775-85; < Italian < Latin altus high

alto-

1.
variant of alti-:
altostratus.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for alto
  • Our voices have the knowing, late-night duskiness of alto-sax jazz.
British Dictionary definitions for alto

alto

/ˈæltəʊ/
noun (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 viola1 (sense 1)
5.
a flute, saxophone, etc, that is the third or fourth highest instrument in its group
adjective
6.
denoting a flute, saxophone, etc, that is the third or fourth highest instrument in its group
Word Origin
C18: from Italian: high, from Latin altus

alto-

combining form
1.
high: altocumulus, altostratus
Word Origin
from Latin altus high
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for alto
n.

1784, "man with an alto voice," from Italian alto (canto), from Latin altus "high" (see old). Originally a "high" man's voice, now more commonly applied to the lower range of women's voices (which is more strictly the contralto), an extension first recorded in 1881.

The alto in a man is totally distinct from the contralto in a woman. The tone is utterly different -- the best notes of the one are certainly not the best notes of the other; and although in certain cases a contralto may sing with good effect music written for a male alto (e.g. in some oratorios), yet the converse is scarcely ever true. ["How to Sing," 1890]
As a type of saxophone, from 1869.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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alto in Culture

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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