[luh-gah-toh; Italian le-gah-taw]

adjective, adverb Music.

smooth and connected; without breaks between the successive tones.

Compare staccato.

Origin of legato

1805–15; < Italian, past participle of legare < Latin ligāre to bind
Related formsnon·le·ga·to, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for legato

Historical Examples of legato

  • Legato means "bound together," for which we substitute the word "connected."

    Piano Playing

    Josef Hofmann

  • Do not take the over-smart differentiations of legato seriously.

    Piano Playing

    Josef Hofmann

  • Slurs indicate either a legato touch or the grouping of the notes.

    Piano Playing

    Josef Hofmann

  • This is the device which enables the pianist to play staccato or legato.

  • The basis of phrasing then, may be found in legato, sostenuto and contrast.

British Dictionary definitions for legato


adjective, adverb

to be performed smoothly and connectedly

noun plural -tos

  1. a style of playing in which no perceptible gaps are left between notes
  2. (as modifier)a legato passage

Word Origin for legato

C19: from Italian, literally: bound
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

Word Origin and History for legato

1811, from Italian legato, literally "bound," past participle of legare, from Latin ligare (see ligament). Of music to be played smoothly, without intervals.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper