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[kri-shen-doh, -sen-doh; Italian kre-shen-daw] /krɪˈʃɛn doʊ, -ˈsɛn doʊ; Italian krɛˈʃɛn dɔ/
noun, plural crescendos, crescendi
[kri-shen-dee, -sen-dee; Italian kre-shen-dee] /krɪˈʃɛn di, -ˈsɛn di; Italian krɛˈʃɛn di/ (Show IPA)
  1. a gradual, steady increase in loudness or force.
  2. a musical passage characterized by such an increase.
  3. the performance of a crescendo passage:
    The crescendo by the violins is too abrupt.
a steady increase in force or intensity:
The rain fell in a crescendo on the rooftops.
the climactic point or moment in such an increase; peak:
The authorities finally took action when public outrage reached a crescendo.
adjective, adverb
gradually increasing in force, volume, or loudness (opposed to decrescendo or diminuendo).
verb (used without object)
to grow in force or loudness.
Origin of crescendo
1770-80; < Italian: literally, growing < Latin crēscendum, gerund of crēscere to grow; see crescent
1. diminuendo. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for crescendo
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The crescendo of motors as he ran, sobbing now in fear, for the cover of the jungle.

    Happy Ending Fredric Brown
  • Then his ears caught a crescendo of the whispering that he had heard before.

    The Whispering Spheres Russell Robert Winterbotham
  • Her voice had a crescendo of vehemence up to this last name.

    The Mermaid

    Lily Dougall
  • But that crescendo is well done; yes, that is most effective.

    Michael E. F. Benson
  • He felt the forces within him reach a crescendo at that moment.

    The Monster S. M. Tenneshaw
British Dictionary definitions for crescendo


noun (pl) -dos, -di (-dɪ)
  1. a gradual increase in loudness or the musical direction or symbol indicating this cresc, (written over the music affected)
  2. (as modifier): a crescendo passage
a gradual increase in loudness or intensity: the rising crescendo of a song
a peak of noise or intensity: the cheers reached a crescendo
verb -does, -doing, -doed
(intransitive) to increase in loudness or force
with a crescendo
Word Origin
C18: from Italian, literally: increasing, from crescere to grow, from Latin
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 crescendo

1776 as a musical term, from Italian crescendo "increasing," from Latin crescendo, ablative of gerund of crescere "to increase" (see crescent). Figurative use is from 1785. As a verb, from 1900.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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crescendo in Culture
crescendo [(kruh-shen-doh)]

A musical direction used to indicate increasing loudness.

Note: The term is sometimes used figuratively to indicate rising intensity in general: “As the days went on, there was a crescendo of angry letters about my speech.” Crescendo is also sometimes misused to indicate a peak of intensity, as in, “The angry letters about my speech hit a crescendo on Wednesday.”
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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