• synonyms


  1. a simple, lyric, melodic passage for voice or instrument.
Show More

Origin of cantilena

1730–40; < Italian < Latin cantilēna refrain, perhaps by dissimilation from *cantilēla, derivative of cantus song; see cant1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for cantilena

Historical Examples

  • At the first cantilena on the strings I nearly jumped out of my seat.

    Contemporary American Composers

    Rupert Hughes

  • A man can sing a 'cantilena' in the fields, but in church it is the women who sing.


    F. Marion Crawford

  • The second movement in six-eight rhythm, is another specimen of the Italian Cantilena.

    Nicolo Paganini: His Life and Work

    Stephen Samuel Stratton

  • The cantabile slow movement, modeled somewhat after the Italian cantilena, was his.

  • A similar freely riming poem in lines of seven syllables is Villegas' Cantilena (p. 17).

British Dictionary definitions for cantilena


  1. a smooth flowing style in the writing of vocal music
Show More

Word Origin

C18: Italian, from Latin cantilēna a song
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