[ tem-poh ]
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noun,plural tem·pos, tem·pi [tem-pee]. /ˈtɛm pi/.
  1. Music. relative rapidity or rate of movement, usually indicated by such terms as adagio, allegro, etc., or by reference to the metronome.

  2. characteristic rate, rhythm, or pattern of work or activity: the tempo of city life.

  1. Chess. the gaining or losing of time and effectiveness relative to one's continued mobility or developing position, especially with respect to the number of moves required to gain an objective: Black gained a tempo.

Origin of tempo

1680–90; <Italian <Latin tempus time

Words Nearby tempo

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British Dictionary definitions for tempo


/ (ˈtɛmpəʊ) /

nounplural -pos or -pi (-piː)
  1. the speed at which a piece or passage of music is meant to be played, usually indicated by a musical direction (tempo marking) or metronome marking

  2. rate or pace

Origin of tempo

C18: from Italian, from Latin tempus time

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

Cultural definitions for tempo


In music, the speed at which a piece is performed. It is the Italian word for “time.”

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.