[pah-suh-kahl-yuh, pas-uh-kal-]
a slow, dignified dance of Spanish origin.
the music for this dance, based on an ostinato figure.
a musical form based on continuous variations over a ground bass.

1650–60; pseudo-Italian spelling of earlier passacalle < Spanish pasacalle literally, step (i.e., dance) in the street (pasa 3rd singular present of pasar to step, pace1 + calle street < Latin callem, accusative of callis path) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
passacaglia (ˌpæsəˈkɑːljə)
1.  an old Spanish dance in slow triple time
2.  See also chaconne a slow instrumental piece characterized by a series of variations on a particular theme played over a repeated bass part
[C17: earlier passacalle, from Spanish pasacalle street dance, from paso step + calle street; the ending -alle was changed to -aglia to suggest an Italian origin]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

"dance tune of Sp. origin," 1659, from It., from Sp. pasacalle, from pasar "to pass" + calle "street." So called because they often were played in the streets.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica


(Italian, from Spanish passacalle, or pasacalle: "street song"), musical form of continuous variation in 34 time; and a courtly dance. The dance, as it first appeared in 17th-century Spain, was of unsavoury reputation and possibly quite fiery. In the French theatre of the 17th and 18th centuries it was a dance of imposing majesty. Little is known of the actual dance movements and steps. Musically the passacaglia is nearly indistinguishable from the contemporary chaconne; contemporary writers called the passacaglia a graver dance, however, and noted that it was identified more frequently with male dancers.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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