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[ob-li-gah-toh; Italian awb-blee-gah-taw] /ˌɒb lɪˈgɑ toʊ; Italian ˌɔb bliˈgɑ tɔ/ Music.
(used as a musical direction) obligatory or indispensable; so important that it cannot be omitted.
noun, plural obbligatos, obbligati
[ob-li-gah-tee; Italian awb-blee-gah-tee] /ˌɒb lɪˈgɑ ti; Italian ˌɔb bliˈgɑ ti/ (Show IPA)
an obbligato part or accompaniment.
a continuing or persistent subordinate or background motif.
a subordinate part of a solo.
Also, obligato.
1715-25; < Italian: bound, obliged < Latin obligātus; see obligate Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for obbligato
  • Perhaps it is adequate, but its strikes a layman's ear as a faint obbligato to his portrayal of the athletic and amorous brigand.
  • Also includes vn obbligato part, holograph, in one half page.
British Dictionary definitions for obbligato


not to be omitted in performance
noun (pl) -tos, -ti (-tiː)
an essential part in a score: with oboe obbligato
See also ad-lib
Word Origin
C18: from Italian, from obbligare to oblige
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for obbligato

musical instruction, 1724, from Italian obbligato, literally "obligated," from Latin obligatus, past participle of obligare "to bind" (see oblige). In reference to a necessary accompaniment by a single instrument.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for obbligato

(Italian: "obligatory"), in music, essential but subordinate instrumental part. For example, in an 18th-century aria with trumpet obbligato, the trumpet part, although serving as accompaniment to the voice, may be as brilliant in its writing as that of the voice itself. The term obbligato accompaniment has a more specialized meaning in some 18th-century music (see accompaniment)

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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