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[mad-ri-guh l] /ˈmæd rɪ gəl/
a secular part song without instrumental accompaniment, usually for four to six voices, making abundant use of contrapuntal imitation, popular especially in the 16th and 17th centuries.
a lyric poem suitable for being set to music, usually short and often of amatory character, especially fashionable in the 16th century and later, in Italy, France, England, etc.
any part song.
1580-90; < Italian madrigale < Medieval Latin mātricāle something simple, noun use of neuter of Late Latin mātricālis literally, of the womb. See matrix, -al1
Related forms
madrigalesque, adjective
[mad-ruh-gal-ee-uh n, -gal-yuh n, -gey-lee-uh n] /ˌmæd rəˈgæl i ən, -ˈgæl yən, -ˈgeɪ li ən/ (Show IPA),
adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for madrigals
  • She could sing madrigals, play the lute and eat with her fingers off a trencher in the proper medieval style.
  • His books of madrigals brought the art of combining words and music to new heights.
  • madrigals are another particularly popular form dating from this period.
British Dictionary definitions for madrigals


(music) a type of 16th- or 17th-century part song for unaccompanied voices with an amatory or pastoral text Compare glee (sense 2)
a 14th-century Italian song, related to a pastoral stanzaic verse form
Derived Forms
madrigalesque, adjective
madrigalian (ˌmædrɪˈɡælɪən; -ˈɡeɪ-) adjective
madrigalist, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Italian, from Medieval Latin mātricāle primitive, apparently from Latin mātrīcālis of the womb, from matrīx womb
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 madrigals



"short love poem," also "part-song for three or more voices," 1580s, from Italian madrigale, probably from Venetian dialect madregal "simple, ingenuous," from Late Latin matricalis "invented, original," literally "of or from the womb," from matrix (genitive matricis) "womb" (see matrix).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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