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[pee-uh-nis-uh-moh; Italian pyah-nees-see-maw] /ˌpi əˈnɪs əˌmoʊ; Italian pyɑˈnis siˌmɔ/ Music.
very soft.
very softly.
noun, plural pianissimos.
a passage or movement played in this way.
Origin of pianissimo
1715-25; < Italian, superlative of piano piano2 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for pianissimo
Historical Examples
  • The pianissimo of choruses and orchestras is seldom soft enough.

    Essentials in Conducting Karl Wilson Gehrkens
  • His speciality was extreme delicacy, and his pianissimo extraordinary.

  • At that part there are two pauses in quick succession, the second of which, is pianissimo.

  • It was very rapid, very staccato, and pianissimo all the way through.

  • The whole piece was intended to be played staccato and pianissimo.

    Story-Lives of Great Musicians Francis Jameson Rowbotham
  • The two first measures are so pianissimo that we scarcely hear them, but the vague and far-away voices come slowly nearer.

    Stars of the Opera Mabel Wagnalls
  • Like all love-songs it is legato, andante, and pianissimo, but at the same time noticeably original and characteristic.

    Stars of the Opera Mabel Wagnalls
  • Play it once pianissimo, fiddles; second time louder—bring in your horns.

    The Salamander Owen Johnson
  • Yes, I think it IS very sweet—and very solemn and impressive, if you get the andantino and the pianissimo right.

  • It is followed by a pianissimo chorus of the guards whispering to each other to “secure the passes round the glen.”

    The Standard Cantatas George P. Upton
British Dictionary definitions for pianissimo


adjective, adverb
(music) (to be performed) very quietly pp
Word Origin
C18: from Italian, superlative of piano soft
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 pianissimo

1724, from Italian pianissimo "very softly," from Latin pianissimus, superlative of pianus (see piano).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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pianissimo in Culture
pianissimo [(pee-uh-nis-uh-moh)]

A musical direction meaning “to be performed very softly”; the opposite of fortissimo.

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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