[ roo-bah-toh; Italian roo-bah-taw ]
/ ruˈbɑ toʊ; Italian ruˈbɑ tɔ /


having certain notes arbitrarily lengthened while others are correspondingly shortened, or vice versa.

noun, plural ru·ba·tos, ru·ba·ti [roo-bah-tee; Italian roo-bah-tee] /ruˈbɑ ti; Italian ruˈbɑ ti/.

a rubato phrase or passage.
a rubato performance.


in a rubato manner.

Origin of rubato

1880–85; < Italian (tempo) rubato stolen (time), past participle of rubare to steal < Germanic; see rob Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for rubato

British Dictionary definitions for rubato


/ (ruːˈbɑːtəʊ) music /

noun plural -tos

flexibility of tempo in performance

adjective, adverb

to be played with a flexible tempo

Word Origin for rubato

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.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper