- the lowest female voice; contralto.
- the highest male voice; countertenor.
- a singer with such a voice.
- a musical part for such a voice.
- the second highest of the four parts of a mixed vocal chorus, or the voices or persons singing this part.
- the second highest instrument in a family of musical instruments, as the viola in the violin family or the althorn in the cornet family.
- of, relating to, or having the tonal range of the alto.
- (of a musical instrument) second highest in a family of musical instruments: alto saxophone.
Origin of alto
- variant of alti-: altostratus.
Examples from the Web for alto
But there was one spot thrown into alto relievo by the sombre drapery of woe.The Story of My Life
Drusilla Osborn was first, then Lettie Burley, an alto, came next.Blue Ridge Country
I will alto make it a possession for the bittern, and pools for water.Bible Animals;
J. G. Wood
Marjon accompanied him with soft, subdued guitar-strokes, and with her alto voice.The Quest
Frederik van Eeden
Charlie took tenor, and Sybil treble, and I alto, and the sexton bass.Dodo, Volumes 1 and 2
Edward Frederic Benson
- denoting a flute, saxophone, etc, that is the third or fourth highest instrument in its group
- highaltocumulus; altostratus
Word Origin and History for alto
1784, "man with an alto voice," from Italian alto (canto), from Latin altus "high" (see old). Originally a "high" man's voice, now more commonly applied to the lower range of women's voices (which is more strictly the contralto), an extension first recorded in 1881.
The alto in a man is totally distinct from the contralto in a woman. The tone is utterly different -- the best notes of the one are certainly not the best notes of the other; and although in certain cases a contralto may sing with good effect music written for a male alto (e.g. in some oratorios), yet the converse is scarcely ever true. ["How to Sing," 1890]
As a type of saxophone, from 1869.