[ mi-liz-muh ]
/ mɪˈlɪz mə /

noun, plural me·lis·mas, me·lis·ma·ta [mi-liz-muh-tuh] /mɪˈlɪz mə tə/. Music.

an ornamental phrase of several notes sung to one syllable of text, as in plainsong or blues singing.

Nearby words

  1. meliorate,
  2. melioration,
  3. meliorative,
  4. meliorism,
  5. meliority,
  6. melismatic,
  7. melissa,
  8. melissy,
  9. melitene,
  10. melitis

Origin of melisma

First recorded in 1605–15, melisma is from the Greek word mélisma song, tune. See melody, -ism

Related formsmel·is·mat·ic [mel-iz-mat-ik] /ˌmɛl ɪzˈmæt ɪk/, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for melisma


/ (mɪˈlɪzmə) /

noun plural -mata (-mətə) or -mas

music an expressive vocal phrase or passage consisting of several notes sung to one syllable
Derived Formsmelismatic (ˌmɛlɪzˈmætɪk), adjective

Word Origin for melisma

C19: from Greek: melody

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 melisma



1837, from Greek melisma "a song, an air, a tune, melody," from melos "music, song, melody; musical phrase or member," literally "limb," from PIE *mel- "a limb." Related: Melismatic.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper