Definition of neume in English:


(also neum)


  • 1(in plainsong) a note or group of notes to be sung to a single syllable.

    • ‘There were also ‘liquescent’ neumes - ornamental neumes that required special types of vocal delivery.’
    • ‘And yet, just how and where we moved from the neume to the square note has not been studied until now.’
    • ‘To illustrate the development from neumes to notes, we take the Offertory Illumina, from the 10th Sunday.’
    • ‘For example, an accidental may appear two or more neumes prior to the modified note.’
    • ‘Comparative analysis of this neume shows that the third note is often divided into two, which would indicate that it is a long.’
    1. 1.1A sign indicating a neume.
      • ‘Rhythmic letters and episemas can be attached to these elements, and will stay with the neume where it is dragged on the staff.’
      • ‘If two versions of the same song can be found, then the later manuscript can be used as a ‘Rosetta Stone’ to help determine what the earlier neumes mean and how they can be interpreted.’
      • ‘This notation, common in some form or another to all early manuscripts, consisted of staffless ‘neumes ', signs that to a certain extent indicate the contour of the melodies but not the exact intervals.’
      • ‘In the 11 th Century, the neums are placed on lines for better pitch accuracy.’
      • ‘The only strange-looking neumes are the slightly curved diagonal strokes, but these are not difficult.’


Late Middle English: from Old French neume, from medieval Latin neu(p)ma, from Greek pneuma breath.