[ob-li-gah-toh; Italian awb-blee-gah-taw]Music.
noun, plural ob·bli·ga·tos, ob·bli·ga·ti [ob-li-gah-tee; Italian awb-blee-gah-tee] /ˌɒb lɪˈgɑ ti; Italian ˌɔb bliˈgɑ ti/.
  1. an obbligato part or accompaniment.
  2. a continuing or persistent subordinate or background motif.
  3. a subordinate part of a solo.
Also obligato.

Origin of obbligato

1715–25; < Italian: bound, obliged < Latin obligātus; see obligate
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for obbligato

Historical Examples of obbligato

  • This is the animal page of the Sunday Star and Cadge is in a hurry for it, to do the obbligato.

  • The prelude in E forms the obbligato organ part of the opening chorus of the cantata Wir danken dir.


    Charles Francis Abdy Williams

  • The earlier obbligato accompaniment gave way to an obbligato style of writing which rested to a greater extent on counterpoint.

  • The accompanying (obbligato) instrument is not mentioned, but the work may well have been one of these Sonatas.

  • Obbligato (sometimes incorrectly spelled obligato)—an accessory melody accompanying harmonized music, (usually vocal music).

British Dictionary definitions for obbligato



  1. not to be omitted in performance
noun plural -tos or -ti (-tiː)
  1. an essential part in a scorewith oboe obbligato
See also ad-lib

Word Origin for obbligato

C18: from Italian, from obbligare to oblige
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 obbligato

musical instruction, 1724, from Italian obbligato, literally "obligated," from Latin obligatus, past participle of obligare "to bind" (see oblige). In reference to a necessary accompaniment by a single instrument.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper