Definition of contralto in US English:


nounPlural contraltos

  • 1The lowest female singing voice.

    ‘she sang in a high contralto’
    • ‘Marietta Simpson's full, rich contralto never degenerates into wobble.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘His writing for contralto or mezzo-soprano, to a text by Theocritus, is surely a masterpiece.’
    • ‘Brought up within earshot of his aunt, the famed contralto Louise Homer, he wrote naturally for the female voice.’
    • ‘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.’
    1. 1.1 A singer with a contralto voice.
      • ‘By adding the Magdalen as a contralto, Elgar acquired an important additional female role.’
      • ‘I was about to play by myself, knowing that I alone could hear the contralto's aria and the accompaniment in my head.’
      • ‘Her father was a prominent surgeon, her stepmother, Paula Lindberg, a famous contralto.’
      • ‘Funny that, because I don't think any of my favourite female singers are contraltos, and I think counter-tenor is my least favourite.’
      • ‘One of Britain's best-loved singers, the contralto Kathleen Ferrier, died of cancer at 41.’
      • ‘She enjoyed singing lessons, sang as a contralto in St Mary's Anglican Church choir and took part in many local concerts.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This was also the last time I sang soprano, because I was becoming a contralto.’
      • ‘She stood with four other sopranos, six contraltos, six tenors, and five basses.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Daniels is a phenomenon: he's a man who sounds like a female contralto - a very strong female contralto!’
      • ‘The poignant sound of the contralto's voice pulled at the heart strings of her listeners as she held them under her spell.’
      • ‘‘All right, contraltos,’ the director encouraged, ‘sing strong, okay?’’
      • ‘At that time, she refused the role because it was written for a soprano and she was a contralto.’
      • ‘The choir and orchestra will be joined by four young soloists - soprano Rebecca Outram, contralto Alexandra Gibson, tenor David Brown and bass James Gower.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Anna, the contralto's step-daughter, was an impressive accompanist who played fluently with great stylistic command.’
      • ‘The results was that he was unable to see anything on the platform, except just nine sopranos and nine contraltos at each corner.’
      • ‘Brahms wrote three piano rhapsodies as well as the Alto Rhapsody for contralto, male chorus, and orchestra.’
    2. 1.2 A part written for a contralto.


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