ZigZag Education House Style for Foreign Musical Terms

These conventions for foreign terms and terms of foreign origin are to be used both in musical scores and within the text of teaching resources.

For terms marked with a ☆, the use of either italics or non-italics is common, so don't apply house style if italicisation is used consistently.

    Italicise

  1. Expression (italicise)
  2. Dynamics (italicise)
  3. Tempo (italicise)
  4. Don't Italicise

  5. Instruction and information (don't italicise)
  6. Technique (don't italicise)
  7. Names of musical symbols (don't italicise)
  8. Forms, styles and genres (don't italicise)
  9. Names of sections and movements (don't italicise)
  10. Names of instruments, voices, instrumentalists and parts (don't italicise)
  11. Miscellaneous (don't italicise)
  12. Treat in the Same Way as the Word/s it Appears With

  13. Other (e.g. prepositions) (treat in the same way as the word/s it appears with)


Expression (italicise)

Term

Origin

Definition

8va / 8vb Italian play an octave higher/lower
ad libitum / ad lib Latin at choice, meaning that a passage may be played freely
affettuoso Italian tenderly
agitato Italian agitated
al / alla Italian to the, in the manner of
allargando Italian broadening (getting a little slower and, probably, louder)
amabile Italian amiable, pleasant
amore Italian love (amoroso – loving)
anima Italian soul, spirit
animando Italian becoming lively
animato Italian animated, lively
animé French animated, lively
appassionato Italian with passion
assai Italian very
assez French fairly, enough, sufficient
ausdruck German expression
ben Italian well
bewegt German with movement, agitated
breit German broad, expansive
brio Italian vigour
calando Italian getting softer, dying away
cantabile Italian in a singing style
cantando Italian singing
cédez French yield, relax the speed
come Italian as, similar to (come prima – as before; come sopra – as above)
comodo Italian convenient, comfortable
deciso Italian with determination
delicato Italian delicate
dolce Italian sweet, soft
dolente Italian sad, mournful
dolore Italian grief (doloroso – sorrowful)
douce French sweet
einfach German simple
en dehors French prominent (a direction to make a melody stand out)
energico Italian energetic
espressivo / express. / espr. Italian expressive
estinto Italian as soft as possible, lifeless
etwas German somewhat, rather
facile Italian easy
forza Italian force
fröhlich German cheerful, joyful
fuoco Italian fire; con fuoco: literally 'with fire'
giocoso Italian playful, merry
giusto Italian proper, exact (tempo giusto – in strict time)
grazioso Italian graceful
immer German always
l'istesso Italian the same (l'istesso tempo – the same speed)
lacrimoso Italian sad
largamente Italian broadly
légèrement French light
leggiero Italian light, nimble
loco Italian at the normal pitch (used often to cancel an 8va direction)
lunga Italian long (lunga pausa – long pause)
lusingando Italian coaxing, in a sweet and persuasive style
maestoso Italian majestic
marcato / marc. Italian emphatic, accented
marziale Italian in a military style
meno Italian less
mesto Italian sad
mezzo Italian half
misura Italian measure (alla misura – in strict time; senza misura – in free time)
moderato Italian moderately
moins French less
molto Italian very, much
morendo Italian dying away
mosso / moto Italian movement
niente Italian nothing
nobilmente Italian nobly
perdendosi Italian dying away
pesante Italian heavy
peu French little
piacevole Italian pleasant
piangevole Italian plaintive, in the style of a lament
più Italian more
plus French more
pochettino / poch. Italian rather little
poco Italian a little
possibile Italian possible (presto possibile – as fast as possible)
prima / primo Italian first
quasi Italian as if, resembling
retenu French held back (en retenant – holding back, slowing a little)
rinforzando / rf / rfz Italian reinforcing
risoluto Italian bold, strong
ritmico Italian rhythmically
ruhig German peaceful
scherzando / scherzoso Italian playful, joking
seconda / secondo Italian second
sehr German very
semplice Italian simple, plain
sempre Italian always
simile / sim. Italian in the same way
smorzando / smorz. Italian dying away in tone and speed
sonoro Italian resonant, with rich tone
sostenuto Italian sustained
subito Italian suddenly (often used with a dynamic marking, e.g. subito piano)
süss German sweet
tanto Italian so much
teneramente / tenerezza Italian tenderly, tenderness
tenuto Italian held
tranquillo Italian calm
traurig German sad
très French very
triste / tristamente Italian sad, sorrowful
troppo Italian too / too much
veloce Italian swift
vif French lively
vite French quick
vivace / vivo Italian lively, quick
voce Italian voice
voll German full
volta Italian time (prima volta – first time)
wenig German little
wieder German again
zart German tender, delicate


Dynamics (italicise)

Term

Origin

Definition

crescendo / cresc. Italian gradually getting louder
decrescendo / decresc. Italian gradually getting quieter
diminuendo / dim. Italian gradually getting quieter
f / forte Italian loud
ff / fortissimo Italian very loud
fz / forzando / forzato Italian similar to sforzando; a strong accent
mf / mezzo forte Italian moderately loud
mp / mezzo piano Italian moderately quiet
niente Italian fading away to nothing
p / piano Italian quiet
pp / pianissimo Italian very quiet
fp / fortepiano Italian loud, then immediately soft
sf / sfz / sforzando / zforzato Italian forced, accented
sotto voce Italian in an undertone, i.e. very quietly


Tempo (italicise)

Term

Origin

Definition

accelerando / accel. Italian gradually getting quicker
adagietto Italian rather slow (faster than adagio)
adagio Italian slow
affrettando Italian hurrying
alla breve Italian with a minim beat, equivalent to 2/2, implying a faster tempo than the note values might otherwise suggest
allegretto Italian fairly quick (but not as quick as allegro)
allegro Italian quick
andante Italian at a medium (walking) speed
andantino Italian slightly faster than andante
a tempo Italian speed, time (a tempo – in time)
doppio movimento Italian twice as fast
grave Italian very slow, solemn
incalzando Italian getting quicker
langsam German slow
larghetto Italian rather slow (not as slow as largo)
largo Italian slow, stately
lebhaft German lively
lent French slow
lento Italian slow
mässig German at a moderate speed
modéré French at a moderate speed
presser French hurry (en pressant – hurrying on)
presto Italian fast
ralentir French slow down
rallentando / rall. Italian gradually getting slower
ritardando / rit. Italian gradually getting slower
ritenuto / rit. Italian held back
rubato / tempo rubato Italian with some freedom of time
schnell German fast
stringendo Italian gradually getting faster
tempo primo Italian original tempo
tosto Italian swift, rapid
volante Italian flying fast


Instruction and information (don't italicise)

Term

Origin

Definition

attacca Italian go straight on to the next section of music
colla voce Italian instruments follow vocal part
da capo / D.C. Italian repeat from the beginning
dal segno / D.S. Italian repeat from the sign
divisi Italian divided (instruments/voices in a section of the ensemble divide into two or more groups playing different parts)
fermata Italian a pause
fine Italian the end
non divisi Italian not divided (every player in a particular orchestral part plays all the notes of a chord)
segue Italian go straight on
simile Italian in the same way
tasto solo Italian (Baroque music) an indication to the keyboard player not to add any chords to the bass line
tutti Italian all parts play
volti subito / V.S. Italian turn the page quickly


Technique (don't italicise)

Term

Origin

Definition

arco Italian play with the bow
arrestre a bowing technique used in tango to increase the speed of bowing; often features in the double bass part
birimintingo precise origin uncertain improvised melodic runs played on a West African stringed instrument called the kora
chicharra Spanish a technique used in tango by the violinist to represent the sound of a cicada insect; the strings are played heavily behind the bridge using the bow
col legno Italian with the wood of the bow (string players)
coloratura Italian elaborate ornamentation in vocal music (also a soprano with a very high, agile voice)
con pedale Italian with pedal
con sordino Italian with mute
embouchure French the way in which a brass or wind instrumentalist applies their mouth to the mouthpiece of the instrument
falsetto Italian a very high register of the voice (usually a male singer's), beyond the normal range
flageolet register French the register above falsetto; the female equivalent of the male falsetto register
glissando Italian played as a smooth or stepped slide between two notes
legato Italian smoothly
latigo Spanish a rapid glissando used in tango to represent the sound of a whip
mano destra / m.d. Italian play with the left hand
mano sinistra / m.s. Italian play with the right hand
parlando Italian a vocal technique that sounds like sung speech
pizzicato Italian plucked (string players)
portamento Italian slide pitch from one note to another
rasgueado Spanish a guitar technique used in flamenco that involves rapid strumming
sirena Spanish in tango, a slow descending glissando on the violin, played on two strings
Sprechgesang / Sprechstimme German a vocal technique that produces a sound that is somewhere between singing and speaking
staccato Italian detached articulation
staccatissimo Italian very detached articulation
sul ponticello Italian play on the bridge (string players)
sul tasto Italian play near the fingerboard (string players)
sur la touche French French for 'sul tasto': play near the fingerboard (string players)
tambor Spanish a form of percussive pizzicato used in tango
tremolo / tremolando Italian trembling effect
una corda Italian use the soft pedal (piano)
vibrato Italian a quick, minor variation in pitch in singing or playing, producing a richer tone


Names of musical symbols (don't italicise)

Term

Origin

Definition

appoggiatura Italian a grace note that takes part of the main note's value
acciaccatura Italian a grace note that is played as quickly as possible
fermata Italian a pause


Forms, styles and genres (don't italicise)

Term

Origin

Definition

a cappella Italian music where a voice or voices perform without accompaniment
ballade French a technically demanding Romantic piano piece in one movement; Chopin is one of the main composers of this genre
bhangra Punjabi traditional Indian music and dance from the Punjab, or popular music influenced by Punjabi music
bolero Spanish in Cuban music, a romantic song with a moderate tempo and a simple duple or quadruple metre; in European music, a dance with a triple metre
bossa nova Portuguese a style of Brazilian music used in some popular genres from the 1950s onwards
cantata Italian a secular or sacred vocal composition in several movements, usually from the Baroque era; smaller in scale than an oratorio or opera
cantus firmus Latin a pre-existing melody that is used as the basis for a contrapuntal composition
chaconne French a Baroque dance with a triple metre and ground bass
concertante Italian ensemble works involving extended instrumental solos in a similar manner to a concerto
concerto Italian
concerto grosso Italian a Baroque genre; sections for the ripieno (the orchestra) alternate with passages for the concertino (a small group of soloists)
divertimento Italian a term used by Classical composers to describe various light-hearted pieces, including work that would now be described as chamber music, sonatas or concertos
duo sonata Italian from the late Classical era onwards, a work in several movements for two instruments (one of which is usually the piano) that play an equal role
empfindsamer Stil German 'sensitive style'; an early Classical German style that was less ornamented and more chromatic than the style galant
fado Portuguese a Portuguese ballad with modal melodies and a simple triple or quadruple metre
fugato Italian
fugue from French/Italian a highly contrapuntal movement; t the opening of a fugue, the different voices or instruments enter one at a time, playing the subject (theme) at different pitches.
habanera Spanish a dotted dance rhythm that originated in Cuban and South American music
khorovod Russian a Russian round dance
lied (plural lieder) German a song from the Romantic era with German text; usually scored for solo voice and piano
mazurka Polish, via German a lively Polish dance in simple triple time, with an accent on the second or third beat of the bar
mélodie French song for solo voice and instrumental accompaniment with French texts, equivalent to the German lied
Moritat German a medieval song about murder
nuevo tango Latin American Spanish a form of tango developed by Piazzolla in the 1950s, with new instruments, and harmonic and melodic structures
opera buffa Italian a comic Italian opera with recitatives
opera seria Italian an Italian opera with recitatives, a serious plot and noble or mythic characters
oratorio Italian a sacred composition for vocal soloists, choir and orchestra
oratorio latino Italian an oratorio with a text in Latin; it usually consists of a single movement
passacaglia Italian a Baroque composition with a slow triple metre; it was structured around variations over a ground bass
polonaise French a slow Polish dance in simple triple metre
prelude French
prima prattica Italian a term used by Monteverdi to describe an early Baroque style influenced by the polyphonic textures and modal tonality of the Renaissance
recitativo accompagnato Italian a passage of speech-like singing with accompaniment from the string section
recitativo secco Italian a passage of speech-like singing with accompaniment from a harpsichord
rondo Italian
rondo form Italian a structure based around a repeating theme that alternates with contrasting episodes; the theme remains in the tonic key throughout
samba Portuguese
salsa American Spanish a fusion genre that combines elements of traditional Cuban music with contemporary styles such as jazz
seconda prattica Italian a style developed by Monteverdi; key features are simple vocal lines, word painting, lyrical melodies and a freer treatment of dissonance
siciliana Italian in the Baroque era, a movement with a slow tempo, compound metre and lilting rhythms; often used to evoke pastoral scenes
sinfonia Italian
simultaneous quodlibet Latin a song where two or more pre-existing melodies are sung at the same time
Singspiel German an opera with German words, and spoken dialogue instead of recitative
solo concerto Italian a composition for instrumental soloists and orchestra
son Spanish a Cuban song with a prominent guitar part and rhythmic accompaniment
Sturm und Drang German 'storm and stress'; a precusor of the Romantic style, defined by contrasts of tonality and dynamics, and intense orchestral effects
style galant French an early Classical style; defined by melody and accompaniment textures, and simple tonic and dominant harmonies
sonata Italian a piece of instrumental music (not to be confused with sonata form)
tango Latin American Spanish a genre of traditional music from Argentina; usually has simple duple or simple quadruple metre and syncopation
toccata Italian


Names of sections and movements (don't italicise)

incl. tempo markings or terms of expression used as section names (e.g. the Allegro, a scherzo, a stretto)

Term

Origin

Definition

Agnus Dei Latin the fifth section of the Ordinary of the Mass; it is a plea to Jesus for mercy
alap Hindi the opening section of a traditional Indian piece; the raga is introduced through improvisation in free time
aria Italian a lyrical passage for a vocal soloist in an opera or oratorio; often emotionally expressive and accompanied by the full orchestra
aria di bravura Italian in late Baroque and Classical opera, an aria with a highly virtuosic vocal part that enables the singer to show off their technique
Benedictus Latin a portion of the Mass that blesses people who follow God; it is usually closely associated with the Sanctus
buffo aria Italian an operatic aria for a comic character of low social status
cadenza Italian a technically challenging, virtuosic passage for a soloist, often located at the end of a movement
coda Italian a passage used at the end of a movement to make it sound finished
codetta Italian a short concluding passage that appears at the end of a section of a movement, such as the end of the exposition in sonata form
Credo Latin the third movement of the Ordinary of the Mass; the text is a declaration of belief in God
Dies Irae Latin a movement in a requiem; the text refers to the terror of Judgement Day
Gloria Latin a movement in a Mass or requiem; the text praises the glory of God
idée fixe French a term invented by Berlioz to describe a theme that is repeated and transformed over the course of a musical work
intermezzo Italian an instrumental interlude between acts or scenes in an opera / an instrumental piece used either as an interlude between movements in a larger work or as a stand-alone character piece
Liber Scriptus Latin a section of the Dies Irae set as a separate movement in some requiems; the text is about the book of judgement
Magnificat Latin a hymn of Mary's from the Bible, performed as part of the vespers and evensong services
moto perpetuo Italian 'perpetual motion'; a piece or section of music featuring fast, repeated rhythms consisting of notes of equal length; also known as perpetuum mobile
perpetuum mobile Latin 'perpetual motion'; a piece or section of music featuring fast, repeated rhythms consisting of notes of equal length; also known as moto perpetuo
Quid sum Miser Latin a section of the Dies Irae set as a separate movement in some requiems; the text asks who to appeal to for salvation on Judgement Day
Rex Tremendae Latin a section of the Dies Irae used as a separate movement in some requiems; the text praises God and is a prayer for salvation
ritornello Italian in a concerto, a main theme that is stated at the start of a movement and repeated at intervals throughout
Sanctus Latin the fourth section of the Ordinary of the Mass; the text declares that God is holy
Tuba Mirum Latin a section of the Dies Irae used as a separate movement in some requiems; the text is about the moment when a trumpet sounds to summon people's spirits before God


Names of instruments, voices, instrumentalists and parts (don't italicise)

alto Italian a low female voice
balalaika Russian a Russian instrument like a guitar but triangular in shape
basso continuo Italian a bass line with numbers under it; the bass line is played by the cello; the numbers indicate chords played on a harpsichord or organ
bodhrán Irish Gaelic an Irish drum used in some folk music
bouzouki Greek/Turkish a plucked string instrument from Greece; it's a type of lute, similar to a mandolin
celesta pseudo-Latin from French a keyboard instrument with a high register and bright timbre
cembalo Italian a harpsichord
coloratura Italian a soprano with a very high, agile voice (also elaborate ornamentation in vocal music)
concertino Italian a group of instrumental soloists in a Baroque concerto grosso or related composition
cor anglais French a woodwind instrument that sounds like an oboe but has a lower register
cori spezziati Italian choirs located in different parts of a church, often used for antiphonal singing in Monteverdi's music
coro Spanish the backing vocals in Cuban music
cuatro Spanish a small guitar used in South American and Cuban music
dhol precise origin uncertain a double-headed Indian drum
duduk (plural duduki) Armenian, from Turkish 'wind pipe'; a traditional double-reed instrument common in the music of Armenia and neighbouring countries
fortepiano Italian an early piano used in the Classical era; the range is narrower and the tone softer than those of the modern piano
gamelan Javanese Indonesian percussion ensemble consisting of gongs and other metal instruments, or music for such an ensemble
glockenspiel German a pitched percussion instrument with a high register
guiro Spanish a Latin American percussion instrument that is scraped using a beater
mezzo-soprano Italian a moderately high female voice (between soprano and contralto)
obbligato Italian an indispensable musical part; often played exactly as written, rather than ad lib
oboe da caccia Italian a member of the Baroque oboe family, pitched a fifth below the modern oboe
oboe d'amore Italian a member of the oboe family with an alto register; used by composers in the eighteenth and twentieth centuries
ondes martenot French an early electronic instrument sometimes used in compositions by Messaien; can be played either with a keyboard or by sliding a metal ring along a wire to produce distinctive portamento effects
orquesta típica Spanish the ensemble that plays tango; usually contains a double bass, a piano, and one or more violins and bandoneons
pregón Spanish the lead local part in Cuban music
ripieno Italian the group of orchestral players in a Baroque concerto grosso or related composition
sarangi precise origin uncertain a bowed, stringed instrument common in Punjabi and Hindustani music
soprano Italian a high female voice
tabla precise origin uncertain an Indian instrument consisting of a pair of drums
tumbi Punjabi an instrument with one string from the Punjab region of India
viola da gamba Italian
violino piccolo Italian in the Baroque era, a small violin, pitched a third higher than the standard violin
violone Italian a Baroque stringed instrument similar to a cello


Miscellaneous (don't italicise)

Term

Origin

Definition

Affekt German especially in music of the Baroque era, the use of rhetorical/stylistic devices to represent emotion – there tends to be one main emotion/mood per movement
altissimo Italian the highest register of a woodwind instrument or voice
anacrusis Latin from Greek unaccented melody notes that precede the first, main beat of the bar
arpeggio Italian a form of broken chord in which the notes of the chord are played ascending/descending order
chaal in Punjabi music, a repeated rhythmic pattern similar to a Western dotted or crotchet-quaver feel
chalumeau French the lowest register of a clarinet
clarion French the middle register of a clarinet
échappée French 'escaped note' – a note going in the opposite direction from the progression in a stepwise melody
Fortspinnung German a common device in Baroque music whereby a few motifs are 'spun out' to create the melody of an entire movement through the use of musical devices such as inversion, sequence, augmentation and diminution
guajeo Spanish an ostinato melody in Cuban music, constructed of syncopated broken chords
kumbengo precise origin uncertain repeated ostinato riff patterns, when played on a West African stringed instrument called the kora
leitmotif German (Leitmotiv) especially in opera or musical theatre, a short theme with dramatic significance that is repeated across the course of a work
libretto Italian the text of an opera or other vocal work
milonga South American Spanish from Brazilian Portuguese a venue or event where tango is danced; also a dance style or a section within a tango piece
ostinato Italian a repeating musical phrase
passagio Italian the notes that are on the boundary between the different parts of a singer's range
raga Sanskrit (sometimes rag or raag) the pitch structures used as the basis for improvisation in Indian classical music
solo Italian an instruction for an instrument that normally plays the same part as other instruments of the same type plays on its own; or a section of a piece that highlights an individual instrument or voice
tala Sanskrit a rhythmic pattern used in Indian classical music borrowed by some rock or pop bands
terzetto Italian a vocal/instrumental trio
tessitura Italian the range of a voice or instrument
tierce de Picardie French a major third in the final chord of a piece in a minor key


Other (e.g. prepositions) (treat in the same way as the word/s it appears with)

Term

Origin

Definition

a Italian at, to, by, for, in the style of
à French to, at
aber German but
avec French with
con / col Italian with
e / ed Italian and
ein German a, one
et French and
ma Italian but
mais French but
mit German with
nicht German not
non Italian not
non French not
ohne German without
ossia Italian or, alternatively
senza Italian without
sans French without
sopra Italian above
sotto Italian below (sotto voce – in an undertone)
un / une French one
und German and
zu German to, too