Definition of cantus firmus in English:

cantus firmus


  • An existing melody used as the basis for a polyphonic composition.

    • ‘The cantus firmus is sounded in semibreves in the middle of the three voices.’
    • ‘In the early years of the seventeenth century, English composers increasingly turned to the hexachord as a cantus firmus for keyboard pieces.’
    • ‘On the other hand, the In nomine was still alive in Facy's day, and Lugge was composing his cantus firmus settings, so the genre was not quite dead.’
    • ‘This cadence articulates the structure of the cantus firmus more clearly than the first, marking precisely the end of the second line of the hymn.’
    • ‘Orgelbuchlein Pieces - Bach's ‘Little Organ Book’ consists of 45 short chorales mainly having the cantus firmus in the soprano voice with the lower voices acting as counterpoint to the chorale melodies.’


Mid 19th century: from Latin, literally firm song.


cantus firmus

/ˌkan(t)əs ˈfərməs/