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  1. low in pitch; of the lowest pitch or range: a bass voice; a bass instrument.
  2. of or relating to the lowest part in harmonic music.
  1. the bass part.
  2. a bass voice, singer, or instrument.
  3. double bass.

Origin of bass1

1400–50; late Middle English, variant of base2 with ss of basso
Related formsbass·ly, adverbbass·ness, nounbass·y, adjective


noun, plural (especially collectively) bass, (especially referring to two or more kinds or species) bass·es.
  1. any of numerous edible, spiny-finned, freshwater or marine fishes of the families Serranidae and Centrarchidae.
  2. (originally) the European perch, Perca fluviatilis.

Origin of bass2

1375–1425; late Middle English bas, earlier bærs, Old English bærs (with loss of r before s as in ass2, passel, etc.); cognate with Dutch baars, German Barsch, Old Swedish agh-borre


  1. the basswood or linden.
  2. Botany. bast.

Origin of bass3

1685–95; variant of bast with unexplained loss of -t


  1. Sam,1851–78, U.S. outlaw: bank and train robber in the West.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for bass

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Restoring the ham to its nest behind his feet, Joe finished the bottle of Bass.

    The Burning Spear

    John Galsworthy

  • The harmonies which you mean are the mixed or tenor Lydian, and the full-toned or bass Lydian, and such like.

  • He heard a bass grumble from Mr. Ginn and Azuba's shrill reply.

    Cap'n Dan's Daughter

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • She doesn't know a fugue from a bass viol, and she never hesitates to say so.

    The Dominant Strain

    Anna Chapin Ray

  • In the lower the notes are arranged according to the bass clef.

British Dictionary definitions for bass


  1. the lowest adult male voice usually having a range from E a 13th below middle C to D a tone above it
  2. a singer with such a voice
  3. the bass the lowest part in a piece of harmonySee also thorough bass
  4. informal short for bass guitar, double bass
    1. the low-frequency component of an electrical audio signal, esp in a record player or tape recorder
    2. the knob controlling this on such an instrument
  1. relating to or denoting the bassbass pitch; the bass part
  2. denoting the lowest and largest instrument in a familya bass trombone

Word Origin

C15 bas base 1; modern spelling influenced by basso


  1. any of various sea perches, esp Morone labrax, a popular game fish with one large spiny dorsal fin separate from a second smaller oneSee also sea bass, stone bass
  2. the European perchSee perch 2 (def. 1)
  3. any of various predatory North American freshwater percoid fishes, such as Micropterus salmoides, (largemouth bass): family Centrarchidae (sunfishes, etc)

Word Origin

C15: changed from base ², influenced by Italian basso low


  1. another name for bast (def. 1)
  2. short for basswood
  3. Also called: fish bass a bast fibre bag for holding an angler's catch

Word Origin

C17: changed from bast
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

Word Origin and History for bass


late 14c., of things, "low, not high," from Late Latin bassus "short, low" (see base (adj.)). Meaning "low in social scale or rank" is recorded from late 14c. Of voices and music notes, from mid-15c. (technically, ranging from the E flat below the bass stave to the F above it), infuenced by Italian basso. Meaning "lowest part of a harmonized musical composition" is from mid-15c. Meaning "bass-viol" is from 1702; that of "double-bass" is from 1927.


freshwater fish, early 15c. corruption of Old English bærs "a fish, perch," from Proto-Germanic base *bars- "sharp" (cf. Middle Dutch baerse, Middle High German bars, German Barsch "perch," German barsch "rough"), from PIE root *bhar- "point, bristle" (see bristle (n.)). The fish was so called for its dorsal fins. For loss of -r-, cf. ass (n.2).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

bass in Culture



The lowest range of the male singing voice. (Compare baritone and tenor.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.