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[os-ti-nah-toh; Italian aws-tee-nah-taw] /ˌɒs tɪˈnɑ toʊ; Italian ˌɔs tiˈnɑ tɔ/
noun, plural ostinatos. Music.
a constantly recurring melodic fragment.
Origin of ostinato
1875-80; < Italian: literally, obstinate < Latin obstinātus obstinate Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for ostinato
  • The renowned opening theme features a driving, and catchy, jazz ostinato figure punctuated by big band blasts and throbs.
  • Compose an eight measure quartet based upon a rhythmic ostinato.
  • Improvise a short ostinato to sing or play with a familiar song.
  • Create a descant or ostinato to a previously learned melody.
British Dictionary definitions for ostinato


  1. a continuously reiterated musical phrase
  2. (as modifier): an ostinato passage
Word Origin
Italian: from Latin obstinātusobstinate
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 ostinato

1876, from Italian ostinato, literally "obstinate, persistent."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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