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[key-poh] /ˈkeɪ poʊ/
noun, plural capos.
any of various devices for a guitar, lute, banjo, etc., that when clamped or screwed down across the strings at a given fret will raise each string a corresponding number of half tones.
the nut of a guitar, lute, banjo, etc.
Also called capotasto.
Origin of capo1
1875-80; < Italian, shortening of capotasto capotasto


[kah-poh, kap-oh] /ˈkɑ poʊ, ˈkæp oʊ/
noun, plural capos.
the chief of a branch of the Mafia.
1960-65; < Italian: head, leader < Vulgar Latin *capum for Latin caput; cf. chief Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for capo
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I suppose that it is called capo delle Gatte in reference to these cats.

    Cyprus Franz von Lher
  • He had been chief of the Quarantia; three times a capo of the Ten.

    Venice and its Story Thomas Okey
  • A capo broke it in pieces and removed the ducal cap from his head.

    Venice and its Story Thomas Okey
  • The bulls' heads on the frieze gave it the popular name of capo di Bove.

    Walks in Rome Augustus J.C. Hare
  • And then the Parmesan, "I will put him to sleep and bear him to the capo in testa in our name!"

    "Persons Unknown" Virginia Tracy
  • The capo's authority was shaken in a paranza which was a paranza no longer.

    "Persons Unknown" Virginia Tracy
  • Did the basista conceal when Nicola was made a capo in the Honorable Society?

    "Persons Unknown" Virginia Tracy
British Dictionary definitions for capo


/ˈkeɪpəʊ; ˈkæpəʊ/
noun (pl) -pos
a device fitted across all the strings of a guitar, banjo, etc, so as to raise the pitch of each string simultaneously Also called capo tasto (ˈkæpəʊ ˈtæstəʊ) Compare barré
Word Origin
from Italian capo tasto head stop


/ˈkæpəʊ; Italian ˈkapo/
noun (pl) -pos
the presumed title of a Mafia leader
Word Origin
Italian: head
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 capo

"leader of a Mafia 'family,' " 1952, Italian, literally "head" (see head (n.)).


"pitch-altering device for a stringed instrument," 1946, short for capo tasto (1876), from Italian, literally "head stop" (see head (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for capo



The head of a local unit of the Mafia; Mafia captain: identified as Mafia capo by whatever's current crime commission

[fr Italian, ''head, chief'']

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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