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[pley-guh l] /ˈpleɪ gəl/
adjective, Music.
(of a Gregorian mode) having the final in the middle of the compass.
Compare authentic (def 5a).
Origin of plagal
1590-1600; < Medieval Latin plagālis, equivalent to plag(a) plagal mode (apparently back formation from plagius plagal; see plage) + -ālis -al1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for plagal
Historical Examples
  • A plagal cadence is one in which the tonic chord is preceded by the sub-dominant chord (IV—I).

  • The plagal Cadence (A-men chord) at the end of the piece has been transcribed as breves instead of semibreves for authenticity.

    Sixty Years a Queen Sir Herbert Maxwell
  • These modes are divided into two classes—the “authentic” and “plagal.”

  • The theme of Schumann's “Etudes symphoniques” is authentic, and the first variation is plagal.

    Critical & Historical Essays Edward MacDowell
  • These enharmonic passages recur to satiety, and the abuse of the plagal cadence deprives it of its religious solemnity.

  • Thus the melody itself was said to be either authentic or plagal, according to whether it had one or two tonics.

    Critical & Historical Essays Edward MacDowell
British Dictionary definitions for plagal


(of a cadence) progressing from the subdominant to the tonic chord, as in the Amen of a hymn
(of a mode) commencing upon the dominant of an authentic mode, but sharing the same final as the authentic mode. Plagal modes are designated by the prefix Hypo- before the name of their authentic counterparts: the Hypodorian mode
Compare authentic (sense 5)
Word Origin
C16: from Medieval Latin plagālis, from plaga, perhaps from Greek plagos side
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 plagal

1590s, from Medieval Latin plagalis, from plaga "the plagal mode," probably from plagius, from Medieval Greek plagius "plagal," in classical Greek "oblique," from plagos "side" (see plagio-).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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