• synonyms


[res-i-tey-tiv, ri-sahy-tuh-]
  1. pertaining to or of the nature of recital.
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Origin of recitative1

First recorded in 1855–60; recite + -ative


  1. of the nature of or resembling recitation or declamation.
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  1. a style of vocal music intermediate between speaking and singing.
  2. a passage, part, or piece in this style.
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Origin of recitative2

From the Italian word recitativo, dating back to 1635–45. See recite, -ive
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for recitative

Historical Examples

  • I have been there, and have laughed heartily at the recitative in your operas.

    The Memoires of Casanova, Complete

    Jacques Casanova de Seingalt

  • But for us who have heard the chorus first, the recitative seems poor and thin.

    John Lyly

    John Dover Wilson

  • The recitative stopped; there was a murmur of mingled voices, and footsteps.

  • To tell the truth, this chant is only a recitative, broken off and taken up at pleasure.

    The Devil's Pool

    George Sand

  • Scenes sung as recitative, with musical accompaniment, in MSS.

British Dictionary definitions for recitative


  1. a passage in a musical composition, esp the narrative parts in an oratorio, set for one voice with either continuo accompaniment only or full accompaniment, reflecting the natural rhythms of speech
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Word Origin

C17: from Italian recitativo; see recite


  1. of or relating to recital
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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 recitative


"style of musical declamation intermediate between speech and singing, form of song resembling declamation," 1650s, from Italian recitativo, from recitato, past participle of recitare, from Latin recitare "read out, read aloud" (see recite). From 1640s as an adjective. The Italian form of the word was used in English from 1610s.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

recitative in Culture



A part of a cantata, opera, or oratorio in which singers converse, describe action, or declaim. It moves the action forward between the high musical moments. Recitatives are distinguished from arias, which are more expressive and musically more elaborate. Recitatives usually have only one syllable of text for each note of music, and the accompaniment by instruments is often very simple.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.