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melisma

[mi-liz-muh]
noun, plural me·lis·mas, me·lis·ma·ta [mi-liz-muh-tuh] /mɪˈlɪz mə tə/. Music.
  1. an ornamental phrase of several notes sung to one syllable of text, as in plainsong or blues singing.
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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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for melisma

melisma

noun plural -mata (-mətə) or -mas
  1. music an expressive vocal phrase or passage consisting of several notes sung to one syllable
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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

n.

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper