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[roo-bah-toh; Italian roo-bah-taw] /ruˈbɑ toʊ; Italian ruˈbɑ tɔ/ Music.
having certain notes arbitrarily lengthened while others are correspondingly shortened, or vice versa.
noun, plural rubatos, rubati
[roo-bah-tee; Italian roo-bah-tee] /ruˈbɑ ti; Italian ruˈbɑ ti/ (Show IPA)
a rubato phrase or passage.
a rubato performance.
in a rubato manner.
Origin of rubato
1880-85; < Italian (tempo) rubato stolen (time), past participle of rubare to steal < Germanic; see rob Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for rubato
Historical Examples
  • Mendelssohn, who always liked a "nice, swift tempo," repeatedly expressed his aversion to Chopin's rubato.

  • rubato is necessary in emotional music and is an excellent means of picturing longing, persuading, dreaming, et cetera.

    Essentials in Conducting Karl Wilson Gehrkens
  • In it he would no doubt have given many valuable hints regarding the correct use of the rubato.

  • It might be said that this dramatic rubato is something different from Chopin's rubato.

  • Those who have entered into the spirit of Chopins works will easily see when to use the rubato.

    Frederic Chopin, Vol II (of 2) Moritz Karasowski
British Dictionary definitions for rubato


noun (pl) -tos
flexibility of tempo in performance
adjective, adverb
to be played with a flexible tempo
Word Origin
C19: from the Italian phrase tempo rubato, literally: stolen time, from rubare to rob
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 rubato

musical instruction, 1883, Italian, short for tempo rubato, literally "robbed time," from past participle of rubare "to steal, rob" (see rob (v.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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