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[pres-toh] /ˈprɛs toʊ/
quickly, rapidly, or immediately.
at a rapid tempo (used as a musical direction).
quick or rapid.
executed at a rapid tempo (used as a musical direction).
noun, plural prestos.
Music. a movement or piece in quick tempo.
Origin of presto
1590-1600; < Italian: quick, quickly < Late Latin praestus (adj.) ready, Latin praestō (adv.) at hand Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for presto
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The cards are quietly inserted into the slide; the leg is drawn up, and—hey, presto!

    Sharps and Flats John Nevil Maskelyne
  • The orchestra struck the first notes of a thrilling waltz, and presto!

    The Root of Evil Thomas Dixon
  • Students should never get the idea that you press down the string as you press a button and—presto—the magic harmonics appear!

    Violin Mastery Frederick H. Martens
  • The guns were loaded and aimed, and they went off, and presto!

    How to Cook Husbands Elizabeth Strong Worthington
  • And suddenly it seemed that the nearby trees began to lift and disappear; and presto!

    Everychild Louis Dodge
  • The third movement is a vivace with the spirit of a Beethoven presto.

  • presto, he saw a flood of pink rush up her shoulders to her ears.

    A Christmas Garland Max Beerbohm
  • Suddenly a little whiff of air enters the pile, when, presto!

British Dictionary definitions for presto


adjective, adverb
(music) to be played very fast
immediately, suddenly, or at once (esp in the phrase hey presto)
noun (pl) -tos
(music) a movement or passage directed to be played very quickly
Word Origin
C16: from Italian: fast, from Late Latin praestus (adj) ready to hand, Latin praestō (adv) present
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 presto

1590s, "quickly," used by conjurers, etc., from Italian presto "quick, quickly" in conjuror's patter, from Latin praestus "ready," praesto (adv.) "ready, available," from prae "before" (see pre-) + stare "to stand," from PIE root *sta- "to stand" (see stet). Cf. Latin praesto esse "to be at hand, be ready," source of French prêt "ready." As a musical direction, it is a separate borrowing from Italian, first recorded 1683.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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