Definition of castrato in US English:



  • A male singer castrated in boyhood so as to retain a soprano or alto voice. The practice of castration was banned in 1903.

    • ‘The sole extant example of the castrato voice dates from the dawn of recorded sound, and the singer in question was advanced in years at the time.’
    • ‘And there was a fascinating account of the castrati, the male singers who lost their testicles before puberty.’
    • ‘We tend to associate Handel operas with high voiced prima donnas, the castrati and the sopranos.’
    • ‘His falsetto voice captures the chimerical sound of the castrati with eerie accuracy, something that becomes clear when we hear a scratchy recording of the last castrato, Moreschi, made at the turn of the 20th century.’
    • ‘The recital concludes with a rarely heard aria with cello obbligato from Arianna, written for the soprano castrato Carlo Scalzi.’


Mid 18th century: from Italian, past participle of castrare (see castrate).