Definition of legato in US English:


adjective & adverb

  • In a smooth flowing manner, without breaks between notes.

    Compare with staccato
    • ‘The pianist wants us to hear everything, and he relies on his legato playing to prevent the music from sounding dry, even skeletal.’
    • ‘His legato approach seems to add tension to the hand and produce a heavier sound.’
    • ‘An emphasis on slower tempos gives Black the opportunity to show off her very accomplished legato playing.’
    • ‘The natural trumpets were brightly penetrating while the flutes and other woodwind resonated above the soft legato strings.’
    • ‘It was an impressive performance with many haunting moments, wonderful legato sections and beautifully sustained final notes.’
    • ‘Play it forte and legato while playing the rest of the chord piano and staccato.’

nounPlural legatos

  • A piece or passage marked to be performed legato.

    • ‘The lyrical second theme brings forth a singing legato from the violin that contrasts wonderfully with its sharp and clipped phrasing in the first section.’
    • ‘Different pitches could also be obtained from the one string and the transition between these pitches was characterised by a delicate legato.’
    • ‘He knew enough about my instrument to be able to say to me: ‘Why don't you play the legato like that?’’
    • ‘Years later when Beth played Mozart Sonatas and Chopin Nocturnes, we experimented with putting down the keys in various ways to get the velvety legatos or sparkling staccatos called for in the music.’
    • ‘The pedal plays a large role in creating a musical perception of legato, and for small-handed pianists, it is indispensable.’


Italian, literally ‘bound’.