• synonyms


[roo-bah-toh; Italian roo-bah-taw]Music.
  1. having certain notes arbitrarily lengthened while others are correspondingly shortened, or vice versa.
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noun, plural ru·ba·tos, ru·ba·ti [roo-bah-tee; Italian roo-bah-tee] /ruˈbɑ ti; Italian ruˈbɑ ti/.
  1. a rubato phrase or passage.
  2. a rubato performance.
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  1. in a rubato manner.
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Origin of rubato

1880–85; < Italian (tempo) rubato stolen (time), past participle of rubare to steal < Germanic; see rob
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for rubato

Historical Examples

  • In it he would no doubt have given many valuable hints regarding the correct use of the rubato.

    Chopin and Other Musical Essays

    Henry T. Finck

  • Mendelssohn, who always liked a "nice, swift tempo," repeatedly expressed his aversion to Chopin's rubato.

  • Those who have entered into the spirit of Chopins works will easily see when to use the rubato.

  • Rubato is necessary in emotional music and is an excellent means of picturing longing, persuading, dreaming, et cetera.

    Essentials in Conducting

    Karl Wilson Gehrkens

  • It might be said that this dramatic rubato is something different from Chopin's rubato.

British Dictionary definitions for rubato


noun plural -tos
  1. flexibility of tempo in performance
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adjective, adverb
  1. to be played with a flexible tempo
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Word Origin

C19: from the Italian phrase tempo rubato, literally: stolen time, from rubare to rob
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 rubato

musical instruction, 1883, Italian, short for tempo rubato, literally "robbed time," from past participle of rubare "to steal, rob" (see rob (v.)).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper