Definition of contralto in English:



  • 1The lowest female singing voice.

    ‘she sang in a high contralto’
    • ‘Marietta Simpson's full, rich contralto never degenerates into wobble.’
    • ‘His writing for contralto or mezzo-soprano, to a text by Theocritus, is surely a masterpiece.’
    • ‘Handel was resolute in his recasting of an opera to suit the current performers, even moving heroines between sopranos and contraltos depending on the available cast and constantly adding new novelties to please the crowd.’
    • ‘Brought up within earshot of his aunt, the famed contralto Louise Homer, he wrote naturally for the female voice.’
    • ‘My voice was of a contralto, albeit noticeably indignant in its own frustration.’
    • ‘Her rich contralto, with both range and depth, is unwavering throughout this sometimes rawboned story.’
    • ‘Her warm contralto conjured memories of adventures long past…’
    • ‘Veloso was so impressed by her rich, almost operatic contralto that he became her mentor and musical director, initiating the recording of her first album and its follow-up in 2000.’
    • ‘It exists on a continuum with her other work in its carefully constructed ruminations on love bathed in her soaring contralto.’
    • ‘Julia Fordham sings in a smoky contralto that can also sweep upward to grab those higher tones when needed.’
    1. 1.1 A singer with a contralto voice.
      • ‘Her father was a prominent surgeon, her stepmother, Paula Lindberg, a famous contralto.’
      • ‘Anna, the contralto's step-daughter, was an impressive accompanist who played fluently with great stylistic command.’
      • ‘She enjoyed singing lessons, sang as a contralto in St Mary's Anglican Church choir and took part in many local concerts.’
      • ‘The choir and orchestra will be joined by four young soloists - soprano Rebecca Outram, contralto Alexandra Gibson, tenor David Brown and bass James Gower.’
      • ‘I was about to play by myself, knowing that I alone could hear the contralto's aria and the accompaniment in my head.’
      • ‘At that time, she refused the role because it was written for a soprano and she was a contralto.’
      • ‘By adding the Magdalen as a contralto, Elgar acquired an important additional female role.’
      • ‘Brahms wrote three piano rhapsodies as well as the Alto Rhapsody for contralto, male chorus, and orchestra.’
      • ‘One of Britain's best-loved singers, the contralto Kathleen Ferrier, died of cancer at 41.’
      • ‘In the latter song, it is amazing what the contralto does with just five notes, and how moving those five notes can be!’
      • ‘The famous contralto was a pioneering African-American interpreter of opera and concert singing, and fought discrimination that sometimes barred her from performing.’
      • ‘She stood with four other sopranos, six contraltos, six tenors, and five basses.’
      • ‘Daniels is a phenomenon: he's a man who sounds like a female contralto - a very strong female contralto!’
      • ‘‘All right, contraltos,’ the director encouraged, ‘sing strong, okay?’’
      • ‘Funny that, because I don't think any of my favourite female singers are contraltos, and I think counter-tenor is my least favourite.’
      • ‘His aunt and uncle, the contralto Louise Homer and the composer Sidney Homer, who was Barber's mentor for more than 25 years, encouraged his studies.’
      • ‘And that doesn't mean that anything other than time and perseverance will turn your top lyric soprano into a belting contralto, but it is possible.’
      • ‘This was also the last time I sang soprano, because I was becoming a contralto.’
      • ‘The poignant sound of the contralto's voice pulled at the heart strings of her listeners as she held them under her spell.’
      • ‘The results was that he was unable to see anything on the platform, except just nine sopranos and nine contraltos at each corner.’
    2. 1.2 A part written for a contralto.


Mid 18th century: Italian, from contra- (in the sense ‘counter to’) + alto. Compare with countertenor.