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[pah-suh-kahl-yuh, pas-uh-kal-] /ˌpɑ səˈkɑl yə, ˌpæs əˈkæl-/
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.
Origin of passacaglia
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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for passacaglia
Historical Examples
  • These sonatas and the passacaglia were written for his young son, W. Friedemann, to practise on the pedal clavichord.


    Charles Francis Abdy Williams
  • Dance-measures, the passacaglia, even the jig, are not excluded; and a chorale has its counterpoint in a siciliano.

    Sebastian Bach Reginald Lane Poole
  • Besides these there are the three great independent toccatas and the passacaglia.

British Dictionary definitions for passacaglia


an old Spanish dance in slow triple time
a slow instrumental piece characterized by a series of variations on a particular theme played over a repeated bass part See also chaconne (sense 1)
Word Origin
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 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 passacaglia

dance tune of Spanish origin, 1650s, from Italian, from Spanish pasacalle, from pasar "to pass" (see pass (v.)) + calle "street." So called because they often were played in the streets.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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