canto fermo

World English Dictionary
canto fermo or cantus firmus (ˈkæntəʊ ˈfɜːməʊ, ˈkæntəs ˈfɜːməs)
1.  a melody that is the basis to which other parts are added in polyphonic music
2.  the traditional plainchant as prescribed by use and regulation in the Christian Church
[Italian, from Medieval Latin, literally: fixed song]
cantus firmus or cantus firmus
[Italian, from Medieval Latin, literally: fixed song]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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