noun Music.

a composition for one or two instruments, typically in three or four movements in contrasted forms and keys.

Origin of sonata

1685–95; < Italian < Latin sonāta, feminine of sonātus (past participle of sonāre to sound1). See sonant, -ate1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sonata

Contemporary Examples of sonata

Historical Examples of sonata

  • The sonata was finished, and then she sang—sang the "Angel's Serenade."

  • To one the sonata is a world of odour and beauty, to another of soothing only and sweetness.

    A Dish Of Orts

    George MacDonald

  • I ventured to remark that Chopin had no special talent for the sonata form.


    James Huneker

  • The sonata over, conversation was resumed with fresh vigour.

    The Child of Pleasure

    Gabriele D'Annunzio

  • This was the crowning glory of the eighteenth century—the sonata.

British Dictionary definitions for sonata



an instrumental composition, usually in three or more movements, for piano alone (piano sonata) or for any other instrument with or without piano accompaniment (violin sonata, cello sonata, etc)See also sonata form, symphony (def. 1), concerto (def. 1)
a one-movement keyboard composition of the baroque period

Word Origin for sonata

C17: from Italian, from sonare to sound, from Latin
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 sonata

1690s, from Italian sonata "piece of instrumental music," literally "sounded" (i.e. "played on an instrument," as opposed to cantata "sung"), fem. past participle of sonare "to sound," from Latin sonare "to sound," from PIE *swene-, from root *swen- "to sound" (see sound (n.1)). Meaning narrowed by mid-18c. toward application to large-scale works in three or four movements.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

sonata in Culture



A musical composition for one or two instruments, usually in three or four movements. The sonata of the classic era in music had a definite arrangement for its movements: the first and fourth had a fast tempo, the second had a slow tempo, and the third was in either playful style (a “scherzo”) or in dance form (a “minuet”).

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.