Definition of obbligato in English:


(US obligato)


  • usually with or as modifier An instrumental part, typically distinctive in effect, which is integral to a piece of music and should not be omitted in performance.

    ‘with piano obbligato’
    ‘the obbligato part’
    • ‘Her voice joined in; softly working it's way through the obbligato, increasing in volume gradually.’
    • ‘Look, if you want a descending obligato, do it in the privacy of your own home away from us normal people.’
    • ‘The sequence of choruses, solos and duets accompanied by muted strings with, in turn, obbligato solo flute, oboe and horn, all supply inspiration and underline the work's deep spirituality.’
    • ‘It is not sung, but only declaimed, and the music is like an obbligato recitative.’
    • ‘The skilful use of obligato, the counter melody flowing around the main melody, is an unfailing attraction of his music.’
    backing, support, background, soundtrack, comp
    View synonyms


Italian, literally ‘obligatory’, from Latin obligatus, past participle of obligare (see oblige).