Definition of melisma in English:



  • A group of notes sung to one syllable of text.

    ‘the melismas of plainchant’
    mass noun ‘the most poetic words can be given more emotive power by using melisma’
    • ‘The melisma is a transposition of the notes E, F, C and B, and it appears frequently throughout the work.’
    • ‘The opulent, yet bright orchestration and the chromatic melismata around the tritone and the melodic minor scale all point toward the composer of Schelomo.’
    • ‘A successful production of Poppea depends not upon operatic voices but upon singing actors who can color their voices and make drama out of the expressive melismas and coloratura.’
    • ‘The solo viola engages in some exotic melismas in this movement too.’
    • ‘The vocal lines, tailored to the soprano voice of Heidi Grant Murphy, are characterized by wide pitch fluctuations, melismas, and extrapolated sounds.’


Late 19th century: from Greek, literally ‘melody’.