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[luh-gah-toh; Italian le-gah-taw] /ləˈgɑ toʊ; Italian lɛˈgɑ tɔ/
adjective, adverb, Music.
smooth and connected; without breaks between the successive tones.
Compare staccato.
Origin of legato
1805-15; < Italian, past participle of legare < Latin ligāre to bind
Related forms
nonlegato, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for legato
  • Mentions his superbly sculpted legato phrasing, his emotion-charged distinctive timbre, and his smoldering stage presence.
  • What he lacked were subtlety, moments of elegant phrasing and smooth legato.
  • If he lacked spontaneity, he sang with suave legato and crisp diction.
  • He loved to teach, and he understood that the piano could make a singing, legato tone--that it did not have to sound percussive.
  • legato is a technique where the notes are smoothly connected without accents or breaks.
British Dictionary definitions for legato


adjective, adverb
to be performed smoothly and connectedly
noun (pl) -tos
  1. a style of playing in which no perceptible gaps are left between notes
  2. (as modifier): a legato passage
Word Origin
C19: from Italian, literally: bound
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 legato

1811, from Italian legato, literally "bound," past participle of legare, from Latin ligare (see ligament). Of music to be played smoothly, without intervals.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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