[ tem-poh ]
/ ˈtɛm poʊ /

noun, plural tem·pos, tem·pi [tem-pee] /ˈtɛm pi/.

Music. relative rapidity or rate of movement, usually indicated by such terms as adagio, allegro, etc., or by reference to the metronome.
characteristic rate, rhythm, or pattern of work or activity: the tempo of city life.
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

Definition for tempo (2 of 2)

a tempo

[ ah-tem-poh; Italian ah-tem-paw ]
/ ɑˈtɛm poʊ; Italian ɑˈtɛm pɔ /

adverb Music.

resuming the speed obtained preceding ritardando or accelerando.

Origin of a tempo

1730–40; < Italian: in (the regular) time
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tempo

British Dictionary definitions for tempo (1 of 2)


/ (ˈtɛmpəʊ) /

noun plural -pos or -pi (-piː)

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
rate or pace

Word Origin for tempo

C18: from Italian, from Latin tempus time

British Dictionary definitions for tempo (2 of 2)

a tempo

/ (ɑː ˈtɛmpəʊ) music /

adjective, adverb

to the original tempo


a passage thus marked
Also: tempo primo

Word Origin for a tempo

Italian: in (the original) 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

Word Origin and History for tempo



"relative speed of a piece of music," 1724, from Italian tempo, literally "time" (plural tempi), from Latin tempus (genitive temporis) "time" (see temporal). Extended to non-musical senses 1898.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture 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.